FIFA World Cup™ finals history
Israel’s last and thus far only appearance at the World Cup finals came at Mexico 1970, where they failed to advance past the group stage but nevertheless showed that they were not there to simply make up the numbers. After suffering a 2-0 defeat by Uruguay, the Blue and Whites secured two impressive draws, first against Sweden (1-1), where captain Mordechai Spiegler scored the country’s only goal to date at the tournament, and then versus Italy (0-0), who would later reach the final. The Israelis would not come close to qualifying again until the Germany 2006 campaign, during which they did not lose a single match, but still ended up being pipped at the post by France and Switzerland.

The team
These days, Israel are regarded as dangerous if somewhat erratic outsiders, capable of beating major footballing nations but also of losing unexpectedly to more modest national sides. Their experienced core of players – Tal Ben Haim in defence, Yossi Benayoun in midfield and Elyaniv Barda in attack – will be acutely aware that Russia 2018 may represent their last chance to star on the world stage.

The coach
Eli Guttman boasts considerable coaching acumen, having taken the helm at some of the biggest clubs in his homeland, such as Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel-Aviv, whom he guided to the UEFA Champions League for the first time in the club’s history. After steering various Israeli teams to three Israel State Cups and two Israeli Premier League titles, he took over from nomadic Frenchman Luis Fernandez in 2011.

The stat
4 – Israel have taken part in World Cup qualifying campaigns in four different geographical zones, namely Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. During their time in the Asian Football Confederation, they lifted the 1964 AFC Asian Cup and secured a berth at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

The former stars
Mordechai Spiegler, Eyal Berkovic, Eli Ohana, Alon Harazi, Ronny Rosenthal, Dudu Aouate