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January 3, 2012 11:23 am

Israel Hires New Head Coach In Pursuit Of 2014 World Cup

avatar by Levi Epstein

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Jeju World Cup Stadium. Photo: thddbwnd.

Decades pass and Israel grows ever impatient, as time and again their national soccer team fails to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament. Yet hope is still alive for those die hard supporters who have known the bitter taste of disappointment, as the nation eagerly anticipates a return to the World Cup arena in the upcoming 2014 tournament.

Forty odd years have passed since the country last qualified for a FIFA world cup appearance way back in 1970, with Israel seeing its fair share of frustrating losses and maddening defeats.

In an effort to bolster the team’s chances of realizing their goal, the Israeli national team’s head office has signed former soccer star and veteran-manager of hapoel Tel Aviv, Eli Guttman as head coach. He’ll lead the team through World Cup qualifiers and with any luck, to the finals.

Guttman has been one of the most successful managers in Israel in recent years, leading Hapoel to the league and cup double last year, before helping them into the Champions’ League group stages for the first time.

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Replacing former head coach, Luis Fernandez – whose contract was not renewed after the Frenchman’s unsuccessful bid to lead Israel to the Euro 2012 finals –  Guttman, 53, has been handed the difficult task of leading Israel to soccer’s promised land after his appointment was unanimously approved by the Israel Football Association.

“Today I am fulfilling a dream although it is only half a dream – the other half would be to complete qualification for the World Cup,” Guttman told reporters at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “Of course that is a huge goal, but if we can achieve smaller goals along the way then maybe that will be possible.”

The two-time Israeli Premier League winner, will be returning to the sidelines for the first time since last May.  His first international assignment will be friendly against Ukraine on February 29.

“I feel excitement and pride to take on this role. It runs in my blood and I know that this team is not mine, but the whole of Israel’s.”  The team will be opening it’s 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign against Azerbaijan on September 7 2012.

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