Israel play their first match since their failed Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, when they take on Croatia on Wednesday night in Osijek.
Alon Hazan will be taking charge of the side – with the Israeli Football Association having only recently started their search for Eli Gutman’s replacement – though the former U17 coach says he doesn’t want the job on a full-time basis. He said: “I prefer to remain a temporary coach, I have no problem with the fact I wasn’t invited by the search committee.”
Israel will be without Eran Zahavi, but could feature Yossi Benayoun, who failed to be picked for any of the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Hazan said: “I haven’t had a chance to coach Eran Zahavi, but from our brief acquaintance I can say that I wish all the players had his passion and hunger for the game, it’s hard for me to believe that he is trying to avoid this trip.”
Benayoun is currently Israel’s record holder with 96 caps, though it seemed his international career was over. Hazan said: “We live in a country where there is a lot of criticism. Had I not called him up I would have also been criticized. Yossi is here because of his ability, his age is irrelevant.
“We are facing a tough match against a strong team. As a player I always wanted to face the best teams and I’m sure our players feel the same way. I won’t be able to do much in a day-and-a-half, so if I can’t have a positive effect I will try not to get in the way.”
Israel’s first 2018 World Cup qualifier is on 5 September, when they host Italy.