Mike Hanley reports from Jerusalem
Israel take on Northern Ireland in an international friendly at Windsor Park in Belfast on Tuesday night (kick off 7.45pm).
Last Friday saw a disappointing UEFA Nations League opening night result for Israel in Elbasan, where a Taulant Xhaka strike from 25 yards gave Albania a 1-0 over a new look Israeli team.
Their opponents this evening in Belfast also suffered a defeat in their debut in this new UEFA competition, with Northern Ireland feeling hard done by after their 2-1 loss to Bosnian and Herzegovina (see match report here).
Andi Herzog, in his first game in charge of Israel, deployed his team in a 3-5-2 formation and despite the defeat there was much to be positive about from an Israeli perspective.
They created multiple opportunities throughout the 90 minutes and, only for some excellent goalkeeping from Strakosha in the Albanian goal and some wayward shooting, the result could have been different.
Speaking in Belfast at the pre-match press conference, Herzog was upbeat ahead of the game.
"We had some very good moments [against Albania] in which we could have scored and taken the game but we did not succeed and in football if you do not score, you cannot win the game.
“It was a good game for us, especially in the first half as we attacked and attacked.
"As a coach you always have to give your team confidence in every situation and we have a lot of new players and young people have to get used to another stage and that's why I'm here.
"My [number] two focus is also to instill in my players the new method and see them work together in the short time we have.
A feature of Israel’s play last Friday night was the attacking performance of the midfield trio of Dor Peretz, Beram Kayal and captain Bibras Natchko, who were ably supported by two wing backs.
Peretz in particular was effective at breaking thru the Albanian cover and the 23-year-old Maccabi Tel Aviv player, who was winning only his fourth cap, already looks to be a player who Herzog could build his team around.
The starting back three of Kapiloto, Yeini and Habshi having never played together before looked a bit unsteady at times and it is likely that Herzog will use this system again in Windsor Park.
Israel’s two wing backs Eli Dasa and Taleb Tawatha pushed forward on the Albanian defense throughout last Friday’s contest, but the accuracy of their deliveries to Dabbur will need to improve if the RB Salzburg front man is to continue his red-hot start to the season.
Eran Zehavi, who missed a guilt edged opportunity in the first half, went off injured two minutes after the break and he did not travel to Belfast.
Maccabi Petak Tikwa’s highly rated 20-year-old centre forward Manor Salomon, who has attracted interest from Juventus and Liverpool in the close season, turned his ankle in training on the eve of the game and also will not be available.
It is expected QPR’s Tomer Hemed will partner Dabbour up front in Zehavi’s absence. Dror Micha who had the most assists in last season’s Israeli Premier League will replace Kayal in the middle.
At the back, there are reports that the experienced Eitan Tibi will replace Nissan Kapiloto in the three man defence
"This will be a completely different game from Albania,” said Herzog.
“I want to compliment Michael O'Neill for what he does with his team. It really is impressive and it will be a good test for us as we prepare for Scotland and after the defeat against Albania. "
The captain of the Israeli national team Beavers Nathko made it clear that he feels things are starting to connect within the team.
"I think that things are going to the positive side, because we were only a few days together, but we really saw in the game that we are able to understand each other and to do what we are expected to do.
"It's a new method this 3-5-2 and there are players who have never played together, but it goes in the positive direction and I hope it will continue like that.”
After a dismal qualifying campaign for World Cup 2018 that extratime.ie focused on previously (see here), the Israeli FA are hoping the air of indifference that the public have with the national team will be lifted with some positive performances.
The appointment of a foreign coach and the attacking football played in Friday’s game will go a long way to get people’s faith back in the side.
The diverse nature of the Israeli side that took to the field is another positive.
Natchko is the first non-Jewish captain of the side and five of the starting eleven players against Albania were from an Arabic background, which hopefully shows a team that, as Eran Zehavi said recently, "is the national team of Israel, not just of the Jewish people".
Israel squad to face Northern Ireland:
Goalkeepers: Ariel Harush (Hapoel Beer Sheva), Guy Haimov (Maccabi Haifa), Danny Amos (Maccabi Netanya)
Defenders: Eitan Tibi (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Shir Tzedek (Hapoel Beer Sheva), Talab Tawatha (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ella Dasa (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Ben Bitton, Loai Taha, Sam Scheimann (all Hapoel Beer Sheva), Ayid Habshi (Macccabi Haifa), Nissan Kapiloto (Hapoel Haifa)
Midfielders: Dor Peretz, Dor Micha, Dan Glazer (all Maccabi Tel Aviv), Bibras Natchko (captain) (Olympiacos), Maxim Plakushenko (Hapoel Haifa), Beram Kayal (Brighton)
Strikers: Tomer Hemed (QPR on loan from Brighton), Moanes Dabour( RB Salzburg), Alon Turgeman (Rapid Wien), Dia Saba (Maccabi Netanya),