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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Euroleague Football Qualifier: Israel vs England 0-0

The football match was a moral victory for sportsmanship and fair play, since ISM tried to boycott it. It was also a "victory" of sorts for Israel, which frankly expected to be trounced, and was apparently planning on a miracle as a central part of its strategy. It helped that England was playing without some of its stars. It hurt that Yossi Benayoun has not recovered completely from an injury that sidelined him for a while. Lackluster offensive play on both sides and world class goalkeeper Dudu Awat kept the game scoreless.

Ami Isseroff

Last update - 23:08 24/03/2007
Israel, England play to 0-0 draw in Euro 2008 qualifier match
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Israel held England to a 0-0 draw Saturday in a European Championship qualifying game.
Needing a victory to get back in touch with the leaders, England failed to win or score for the third straight Group E game, and the pressure is building on coach Steve McClaren.
"Disappointed, frustrated," McClaren said. "To dominate the game like that, to have the chances that we did and not to score, it's disappointing and not good enough. We should have won that game."
The 4,000 traveling England fans taunted McClaren by chanting, "You don't know what you're doing."
"We got balls in the box. We got shots on target. Either it didn't fall for us or poor quality, poor finishing, poor decisions has cost us," McClaren said.
"It's two points we dropped there. We should have won that," he said.
Midway through the first half, Israel goalkeeper Dudu Awat made a one-handed catch from Wayne Rooney's header and then dived at the feet of Frank Lampard to smother the ball.
At the other end, England goalkeeper Paul Robinson dived to his right to save a powerful low shot from Toto Tamuz in the 28th minute and the 18-year-old Nigerian-born striker flashed a header just wide a minute later.
Pini Balili went close for Israel in the 56th minute when he collected a pass from Yossi Benayoun and turned to fire an 16-meter left footed shot which flew wide of the post.
Lampard forced Awat to make a diving block with a first-time volley in the 62nd and Rooney and Tal Ben Haim were both shown yellow cards for clashing with each other after they had tried to win the loose ball.
Four minutes later, Lampard's glancing header flew across the face of the Israel goal. Then Andy Johnson flicked Steven Gerrard's cross wide and Jamie Carragher headed a corner off the bar.
Substitute Jermain Defoe had a chance to snatch victory for England seven minutes from the end but Awat dashed off his line to block his shot.
Israel's coach was confident of team's chances

Israel National Team Coach Dror Kashtan on Friday expressed confidence in Israel's chances in Saturday's soccer match against England, telling reporters, "this nation knows how to fight," adding that a victory "will be possible."
Saturday's match will be the first competitive meeting between Israel and England. At Ramat Gan in 1986, England won a friendly 2-1 and the two sides played a goalless draw two years later.
McClaren needs his team to win on Saturday. Otherwise, his job and England's chances of qualifying for the 2008 championship will both be in jeopardy.
"The talking has to stop, we have to deliver on the pitch and that's what we aim to do," McClaren told reporters Friday.
England's qualifying campaign started strongly with two wins in September - 5-0 over tiny Andorra and 1-0 in Macedonia.
But England hasn't won since Owen Hargreaves broke his leg in September playing for Bayern Munich. Without the Canadian-born midfielder, England was held 0-0 at home to Macedonia and beaten 2-0 in Croatia.
England is three points behind leader Croatia in Group E, one point behind Russia and level with Israel and Macedonia. Only two teams qualify automatically. England plays Andorra in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday.
Meanwhile England called up Charlton Athletic right back Luke Young on Wednesday following a rash of injuries leading up to Saturday's game.
England is without first-choice right back Gary Neville, who has damaged ankle ligaments, while his understudy Micah Richards is doubtful for the Group E game in Ramat Gan with a calf injury.
Capped seven times, Young made his debut in a friendly with the United States in May 2005, but the 27-year-old has not played for England since a friendly win over Argentina in November that year in Geneva.
He has been drafted in as cover, should Richards not be fit in time, though McClaren has two utility defenders available in Carragher and Phil Neville.
Young is the latest addition to the squad as McClaren tries to solve a defensive puzzle on the flanks.
He drafted in left-sided midfielder/defender Gareth Barry on Monday as left backs Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge will miss out through suspension and injury respectively on Saturday.
In central defense, squad player Jonathan Woodgate is nursing a knee injury but is due to travel.
England, which has also called up striker David Nugent of second division Preston North End after losing Darren Bent, is third in the group behind Russia and leaders Croatia.
The team also faces Andorra in another qualifier Wednesday in Barcelona, a game in which Cole will return from suspension.
"This is when the pressure is on. The atmosphere will be intense and this is where we have to perform - each and every one of us," McClaren said. "I think everybody knows that."
"The players know the expectation from myself and the fans and they're the most important people. Before we look to qualify and to win anything, we have to produce a team that the fans can be proud of."
Hargreaves is back and determined to halt the slump, suggesting the Israelis won't be able to handle England's style of play.
"They're not used to playing at a high tempo, he said. If we can do that, put some pressure on them, we'll win the ball back and get the ball to our players up front, whether that be Wazza (Wayne Rooney) or whoever's playing up there to score some goals for us," Hargreaves said.
Rooney has failed to score in a competitive match since getting two goals against Croatia at the Euro 2004 tournament. The Manchester United striker is set to play up front with Everton's Andy Johnson, who hasn't scored in five England appearances.
Saturday's match will be the first competitive meeting between Israel and England. At Ramat Gan in 1986, England won a friendly 2-1 and the two sides played a goalless draw two years later.
Both teams failed to beat Croatia in their last qualifiers. Israel lost 4-3 at home in November. England's 2-0 defeat was capped by freak own goal, with goalkeeper Paul Robinson completely missing the ball as he tried to clear a backpass.
After experimenting with tactics in friendlies against the Netherlands (1-1) and Spain (a 1-0 defeat), McClaren looks set to stick with his trusted 4-4-2 formation.
Injuries and a suspension have left McClaren without fullbacks Gary Neville, Wayne Bridge, Micah Richards and Ashley Cole. Neville's brother, Phil, and Liverpool's Carragher look likely to fill in, with captain John Terry and Rio Ferdinand set to start in the center.
"We've got a strong squad. We'll have a strong team and the talking is over. We've got to perform," McClaren said.
The players of the England football team landed in Israel's Ben Gurion International airport Thursday evening, joining thousands of fans that had begun arriving in Israel in advance of Saturday's game.
The beer supply at the Herzliya hotel housing the team was doubled in anticipation of their arrival. The Israeli team is staying at a Tel Aviv hotel.
On Friday, a huge welcoming event for the English fans was held in Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv. The event included live music, food, drink and competitions.
Carlsberg provided over 10,000 liters of beer for the event.
In addition, a special "Football 4 Peace" (F4P) children's tournament, sponsored by the British Council, will be held on Friday, at the Tel-Aviv Sportek, located in Ganei Yehoshua. Thousands of British and Israeli fans are expected.

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