BEN HAIM II

Tal Ben Haim II has been the star of Israel’s opening two Euro 2016 qualifying matches

IT SEEMS to be generally accepted that Israel will never have a better chance of qualifying for a major football tournament. And their bid to reach the European Championships in France in 2016 has got off to a great start with them having won both their opening two matches. An impressive victory in Cyprus was followed by a comfortable one in Andorra. However, while off to flier – and now the only team in Group B with a 100 percent winning start – their next three games will go a long way to determining if they can qualify from the group. The trio of matches are all in Israel, starting with Bosnia & Herzegovina next month, and then a double-header against Wales and Belgium in March. Six points from nine out of that lot, and then Israeli fans can really dare to dream.

ISRAEL bid farewell to one of its greatest ever sportsmen at the weekend after legendary basketball player Tanhum (Tani) Cohen Mintz passed away, three days after his 75th birthday. Born in Riga, Latvia, he was one of the best centers in European basketball in the 1960’s, and during his time at Maccabi Tel Aviv between 1957-1972, helped the team to nine league championships and State Cups, while also had a pivotal role in the side’s run to the final of the European Cup Winners Cup in 1967. Ranked ninth in terms of Israel’s all-time top basketball scorers with 5,851 points, he was also part of their gold-winning medal squad at the 1966 Asian Games. Maccabi chairman Shimon Mizrahi summed his up role in that great team, saying: “He was a true center, with the entire team revolving around him.”