Having handed chances to some "new, hungry players", Israel's French coach Jean Fernandez is eager to make a flying start in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying at home against Malta.
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Israel will kick off their bid for a place at UEFA EURO 2012 with a home outing against Malta, and while they have never lost to their Group F rivals they could only draw against them on the road to UEFA EURO 2004.
• Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC's Eliran Atar and Yoval Avidor received their first senior Israel call-ups after scoring in their side's 4-3 UEFA Europa League play-off win over national-team boss Luis Fernandez's old club, Paris Saint-Germain FC, while Hapoel Akko FC 30-year-old goalkeeper Dudu Goresh also has a first chance to impress. Fernandez said: "We have a very good, deep squad and we want to hand chances to new, hungry players who want to prove themselves."
• Israel squad
Goalkeepers: Dudu Aouate (RCD Mallorca), Ohad Levita (RKC Waalwijk), Dudu Goresh (Hapoel Akko FC)
Defenders: Tal Ben Haim (West Ham United FC), Dekel Keinan (Blackpool FC), Yoav Ziv (Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC), Dedi Ben Dayan (Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC), Dani Bondar (Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC)
Midfielders: Yossi Benayoun (Chelsea FC), Tamir Cohen (Bolton Wanderers FC), Almog Cohen (1. FC Nürnburg), Biram Kayal (Celtic FC), Avihai Yadin (Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC), Eran Zahavi (Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC), Gil Vermouth (Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC), Eyal Golasa (Maccabi Haifa FC), Lior Rafaelov (Maccabi Haifa FC), Maor Melikson (Hapoel Beer-Sheva FC)
Forwards: Shlomi Arbeitman (KAA Gent), Etey Schechter (Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC), Ben Sahar (Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC), Yuval Avidor (Maccabi Tel-Aviv) FC, Eliran Atar (Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC)
• Malta coach John Buttigieg is eager to make a bright start in Group F, as his side prepare for their trip to Israel, saying: "These are two big matches for us. I reckon Israel and Latvia are at about the same level. Our lack of match practice worries me since our league has not kicked off yet."
• Malta squad
Goalkeepers: Anthony Curmi (Tarxien Rainbows FC), Andrew Hogg (Valletta FC), Mario Muscat (Hibernians FC)
Defenders: Andrei Agius (AS Melfi), Jonathan Caruana (Valletta FC), Clayton Failla (Sliema Wanderers FC), Massimo Grima (Hamrun Spartans FC), Edward Herrera (Hibernians FC), Carlo Mamo (Marsaxlokk FC), Emmanuel Muscat (Wellington Phoenix FC), Joseph Zerafa (Birkirkara FC)
Midfielders: Shaun Bajada (Birkirkara FC), Roderick Briffa (Valletta FC), Trevor Cilia (Birkirkara FC), Paul Fenech (Birkirkara FC), Ryan Fenech (Hamrun Spartans FC), Jamie Pace (Valletta FC), Kevin Sammut (Valletta FC), Gareth Sciberras (Marsaxlokk FC)
Forwards: Daniel Bogdanovic (Sheffield United FC), Andrew Cohen (Hibernians FC), Michael Mifsud (no club), Ivan Woods (Sliema Wanderers FC)
• Israel's record in six games against Malta reads W4 D2 L0 (W2 D2 L0 at home).
• The teams last met in Antalya on 10 September 2003, when the hosts needed a late Pini Balili equaliser to secure a 2-2 draw and deny Malta a famous victory. Michael Mifsud and David Carabott had earlier fired the visitors into the lead following Haim Revivo's first-half opener.
• That proved to be Malta's sole point in their bid for a place at the UEFA EURO 2004 finals in Portugal. Israel, who also prevailed 2-0 in Ta' Qali on 12 October 2002 thanks to efforts from Balili and Revivo, could only finish third in qualifying Group 1.
• Malta's other draw against Israel came on opposition soil as well, the two sides recording a 1-1 stalemate in Haifa on 2 December 1987.
• That encounter was sandwiched between a pair of home victories for Israel, Malta losing the very first meeting between the nations 2-1 in Jerusalem on 6 September 1984 and then succumbing 2-0 in Beersheba on 18 October 1988.