Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Greek Tragedy in the making or not ?

I was in the bakery section of the supermarket the other day, when to my surprise I saw that they were selling the roundish lump of dough with a dollop of sweet red gunk in the middle otherwise known as the ubiquitous jam/jelly doughnut. As you are reading this, I know that you are beginning to wonder what this has got to do with a game of football, apart from both objects being round. Who can guess the connection, well the doughnut is symbolic of the festival of lights, Chaunkah, which is a celebration of the last time that Israel beat the Greeks, and lo and behold, Israel just happen to be facing Greece tonight in a vital European qualifier.

So the question is, can Israel overcome one of their oldest foes again after over 2,000 years of trying? the omens don’t look good. Before I carry on, I know that all the Maccabi Tel-Aviv basketball fans who are reading this are going to say that Maccabi often beat Greek teams at Chanukah time, sorry guys, that does not count. I doubt that many of the players for Maccabi would qualify as members of the tribe.

I am sure that many of you good readers have head of the term a Greek tragedy, but are not quite sure what it means, so I went to Bet Shemesh’s eminent Greek Scholar, Dr Lisa Maurice and asked her for a quick definition. I told her I wanted 3 lines not the 3 days that she said would be needed to explain the concept, but she came through and here roughly is what she said. A play were the cast think that the they are good and things are going to work out, but in the end their hopes prove futile and they are shown not to be up too standard.

Sounds familiar, yes we could be talking about, the Israel national football team. The defeat to Croatia on Saturday night was very disappointing as the Croatians did not play well at all, and better execution of the chances that fell Israel’s way early on, would probably have given Israel a win. Therein lies the hope, Israel did create chances and good ones and Schechter’s goal was very well taken. Israel also tends to play better away from home, perhaps because there is less pressure on them.
If they were not expected to win against Croatia, then they are certainly expected to lose tonight. As I said in the last blog, in the absence of Yossi Benayoun, who is now expected to be out for 6 months with injury, somebody has to take the responsibility of pushing the team forward. Schecther, did his bit, but Gilly Vermouth was very disappointing, he has to play well for Israel to have a chance. Perhaps Fernandez will give Lior Rafelov a chance as he did well when he came on as a substitute.

This leads us to the manager, Louis Fernandez, who is a very unpopular figure in the Israeli press and this is not just because he is French, although that is just cause for me. The claim is that he has not brought any order to the team, there is no structure, some of these criticisms are justified, but the players have to take a lot of the blame and the press most for overstating the level of Israeli football. One thing is for sure, it is fun to watch Fernandez (I think the Israeli FA thought he was Spanish, because of his name, and the Spanish are world champs and European Champs at the moment) striding up and down his technical error, sucking on his lollipops and throwing his arms about in those classic Gallic shrugs.
A quick word about the Greeks, they are not that good, but always seem to do well against Israel. The crowd in Athens will be very hostile, the Greek number 7 Samaras, likes scoring against Israel. As the table stands, Greece and Georgia have 5 points and Israel 4, so there is still all too play for.

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