Israel-Portugal Preview: Paulo Bento's boys face a tough trip to Ramat Gan

With Russia running away in Group F, both sides cannot afford to let points slip as they look to qualify for the 2014 World Cup


Gabai, Tibi, Keinan, Gershon
Natkho, Alberman, Benayoun
Melikson, Hemed, Basat

Rui Patricio
Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao
Micael, Veloso, Moutinho
Varela, Postiga, Ronaldo

Portugal arrived in Tel Aviv on Wednesday knowing anything other than three points would only further endanger a World Cup qualification campaign that has already had its share of wobbles.

With seven points apiece after four Group F matches, both Portugal and Israel trail Russia by five points, and the victor of Friday’s encounter will give themselves a leg up in the race for the bracket’s play-off berth.

Portugal boss Paulo Bento, who is already feeling the heat, will have to make do without Manchester United winger Nani after the 26-year-old picked up a hamstring injury in the FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea. Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho is also doubtful after sustaining a muscle injury in the Champions League against Malaga.

Bento’s squad to face both Israel and Azerbaijan in this round of qualifying includes Wolfsburg winger Vierinha, who was called up for the first time and will be hoping to make his international debut.

On the other side of the ball the main concern for Israel boss Eli Guttman is how, or whether, to use veteran midfielder Yossi Benayoun against Portugal.

Benayoun, who has been capped 90 times for his country, has been dropped previously in this qualification campaign and could start from the bench against Portugal given Guttman’s concerns about the midfielder’s lack of playing time at Chelsea.

However, lack of minutes did not prevent the recalls of Tal Ben-Haim, who has been used sparingly since joining Queens Park Rangers, and Itay Schechter, who has made only four appearances for Swansea.

Guttman has no new injury or disciplinary worries ahead of Friday’s match.

  • Portugal first qualified for a World Cup finals in 1966 but didn't make it back to the tournament for another 20 years. They have participated in five World Cups.
  • The Seleccao were named Most Entertaining Team at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where they came fourth after losing the third-place match to Germany.
  • The Portuguese are winless in their last three matches, losing to both Russia and Ecuador and drawing Northern Ireland and Gabon.
  • Israel’s lone World Cup appearance was in 1970, where they finished bottom of Group 2 but earned an impressive 0-0 draw with Italy.
  • Mordechai Spiegler, who played briefly for both Paris-Saint Germain and New York Cosmos, is Israel’s highest goalscorer with 33 tallies 83 international appearances.
  • Now a member of Uefa, Israel previously competed in the Asian Football Confederation and won the 1964 AFC Asian Cup, which they hosted.