Group B kicks off qualifying campaign without Israel
Ben Gurion Airport
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel was supposed to host Belgium at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on Tuesday, but the Group B match was postponed last month to March 31, 2015 due to the security situation.
Israel’s Euro 2016 qualifying group will get underway on Tuesday night without the blue-andwhite when Bosnia hosts Cyprus and Wales visits Andorra.Israel was supposed to host Belgium at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on Tuesday, but the Group B match was postponed last month to March 31, 2015 due to the security situation.The encounter was set to be relocated to Cyprus. However, the Israel Football Association asked the Belgian FA to postpone the match instead, and the Belgians agreed in a sporting gesture.Israel’s friendly match against world champion Germany, which was set for March 25, will be played at a later date, with the blue-and-white to also host Wales in a qualifier in Haifa on March 28. Following last month’s decision, Israel will open its Euro 2016 qualifying campaign at Cyprus on October 10 and national team coach Eli Gutman will be keeping a close eye on Tuesday’s action.Belgium and Bosnia are the favorites to finish the group in the top two positions, with Wales expected to be Israel’s main rival for third place, which leads to the playoffs. Gareth Bale believes he can succeed where the likes of Ryan Giggs, Mark Hughes and Ian Rush have failed and help Wales qualify for its first major tournament in more than 50 years.The nation of three million inhabitants has produced its fair share of great names down the years but since the 1958 World Cup it has been a tale of woe and near misses for Wales.Bale, who became the world’s most expensive player when he joined Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur a year ago for some 100 million euros ($130 million), believes the 2016 European Championship in France will end the wait.Euro 2016 is the first to have 24 teams (up from 16) compete in the group stages, giving Bale and the ever-improving Wales the perfect opportunity to compete among Europe’s elite.“It’s even more exciting, we feel we have a great team that’s now been together for a while, and we’re full of confidence,” Bale told the Football Association of Wales website on Saturday.“The fact that more teams can qualify this time around just adds to that sense of confidence.”Wales is by no means a oneman team, with a worthy supporting cast including Arsenal’s goalscoring midfielder Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen, an under-rated yet important part of Liverpool’s team.In defense they also have Swansea City’s highly-regarded skipper Ashley Williams and Tottenham Hotspur’s Ben Davies.“We’re young, but we’ve been together now for five, six or seven years,” Bale said. “We all feel we’re at that stage where we really need to start producing,” the 25-year-old added.“Hopefully the time is right and we can kick on and qualify for major tournaments. “We have to be confident, otherwise there’s no point in us being here.We feel we have a good team, that we’re playing good football.“We have the right staff around us and everything is in place now for that to happen. The main thing now is that we have to do the job on the pitch.”Wales’s only previous tournament appearance was the 1958 World Cup when the great John Charles led it to the quarterfinal where it was beaten 1-0 by eventual champion Brazil.In 1993, a team containing Ian Rush and a young Ryan Giggs lost 2-1 in its final qualifying game against Romania when victory would have seen it qualify for the 1994 World Cup.Ten years later the Welsh lost a two-legged playoff against Russia, despite drawing the first leg away. Since then they have made little impression.