National Team Pool – Defenders
In previous articles the forwards and midfielders available to the National Team were profiled, this week we’ll be looking at the defenders that Israel has to choose from. Today the Israeli game suffers from a shortage of good defenders. During the past qualifying campaign many of the goals that were conceded were due to poor defending from set pieces. In many games Israel was constantly in a defensive shell, unable to go forward because of weak defenders. In particular the position of left and right back have been suspiciously lacking in quality. The players that Israel chooses from for this position are sub-standard and are exposed in International games.
The only player that has been a guaranteed starter in the defense over the last few years, has been Tal Ben-Haim. Although his career in England has been up and down, he has been really solid at the back for Israel. He has good pace, and is good at dealing with fast strikers. He is strong and good in the air as well, he has become one of the better defenders in England this year, despite him playing for relegation bound Portsmouth. As a I mentioned earlier, Israel doesn’t have any good full-backs. I think that Ben-Haim could be really effective if he was moved into a sweeper position with three center-backs behind him. Ben-Haim has been a leader for the team, and could be named captain if Yossi Benayoun retires.
Solid and unspectacular are words that you would put to Dekel Keinan‘s name. The Maccabi Haifa center-back was a consistent selection during the last campaign. Keinan is tall and strong and has very good positioning, ocassionally he has been beaten for pace since he doesn’t possess elite speed or athleticism. Keinan was responsible for the goal in Israel’s 1-0 loss to Latvia when he was out jumped on a corner for the ball. Keinan is relatively young for a center-back at 25 so expect him to play significantly in the next campaign.
Recently Avi Strool has replaced Dekel Keinan as Tal Ben-Haim’s partner in defense. Strool helped Ben-Haim shut out Switzerland and Romania in Israel’s last two games. Strool is tall and matches up well against taller forwards, he has good positioning and has decent but not impressive speed. He currently plays for relegation threatened Lokeren in the Belgian league, so it will be interesting if he stays there or move somewhere else.
Israel has played a conventional 4-4-2 under recent coach Dror Kashtan and current interim coach Eli Ohana. The first selection at left back during the last campaign has been Dedi Ben-Dayan. Ben-Dayan has really average speed, but is good on the ball, although this isn’t ideal for a fullback, he is currently the best option that Israel has for this position. Ben-Dayan has scored nine goals this season which is an incredible amount for a full-back. He is 31 years old which means the clocking is ticking on how much time has left to play at a high level.
The right back position for the National Team was sketchy last campaign with a game of musical chairs being played at the position. Yoav Ziv is probably the first choice at this position although he faces stiff competition. Ziv is a mediocre player, that has been only somewhat effective when playing for the National Team. He really doesn’t offer anything going forward, and is constantly needing help against pacey players. Ziv often gives away possession by kicking the ball upfield instead of feeding the midfield players.
Another player that I’m not very high on is Klemi Saban. He lacks composure on the ball and is constantly giving it away. He always needs help on his side and can’t deal with players in a one on one situation. He offers nothing going forward as well and often gives away cheap free-kicks. He is a liablity when he is on the field and I would urge the next coach not to start him. He is good enough for the Israeli league and thats it.
A player that I would prefer to start over Saban and Ziv is Eyal Meshumar. Meshumar is Dekel Keinan’s teammate at Maccabi Haifa. During much of the last campaign he was injured, but when he does play he offers alot more going forward than either Ziv or Saban and has more composure on the ball. He didn’t play against Switzerland, but hopefully he will play against Uruguay and Argentina in May. Meshumar is a good crosser of the ball and has a very good shot. If Israel continues with the current system, Meshumar should definitely be given a chance to play.
A young player that was called up for the last part of qualifying was Din Mori. He currently plays for the Israeli club Bnei Yehuda and is only 21 years old. He is good in the air and has good positioning, but he isn’t going to threaten anyone with his speed. He is fourth on the depth chart so unless several players are injured don’t expect him to see too much playing time.
Names To Know For The Future
Israel has a few interesting prospects for younger defensive players, so as they develop it will be interesting to see what they can accomplish. Rami Gershon is playing for Standard Liege currently and has played in a couple of games recently for the team. Gershon has struggled in his few starts mainly because he has been playing as a left-back and not as a center-back which is his natural position. If Gershon is not signed by Liege at the end of the season he could be picked up by one of Israel’s top club teams. Nir Mansour is another interesting prospect who currently plays for Real Madrid’s Juvenil A team. He plays as a left back, but I’ve never gotten the opportunity to watch him play. Ali Ottman who currently plays for Maccabi Haifa is a more versatile player. He was right back of the year last year in the Israeli League. Currently he plays a variety of positions including right-back, defensive midfielder, and on the right wing. Look for him to be a possiblity as he gets more exposure with Haifa.
Israel’s current defensive situation is somewhat shaky and I would recommend them to switch to three center-backs at the back or to have three center-backs and a sweeper since the current full-backs lack quality. There are good young players coming up and Israel’s next coach would do well to give them a chance. The lack of athleticism and skill at these positions has hurt the team since it forces more offensive minded players to play more defensive roles in order to help out their teammates. The current system does not work, good luck to the next coach, who will have to fix it. The series on the players will end next week with the goalkeepers available to the National Team.