You sometimes wonder just how much visiting teams know about Northern Ireland.
It’s been obvious on one or two occasions that some didn’t have a clue when they mentioned coming up against players competing for teams in the Champions League — wrong Ireland guys.
Others have tried to bluff their way, with their players saying that they expect a tough game against a team they know are hard to beat and throw in the names of two or three of our more well known players — mainly David Healy and Keith Gillespie in the recent past.
There is little doubt though that the Israel team have done their homework ahead of tonight’s trip to Windsor Park.
They are well genned up about Northern Ireland’s recent record and are very much aware of the ‘Windsor Park effect’ that manager Nigel Worthington will be hoping works in his team’s favour again this evening.
It seems that word is getting around and that can only be a good thing for Northern Ireland — although the element of surprise may now be unfortunately a thing of the past.
“I know what I need to know,” said Liverpool midfielder Yossi Benayoun who will captain his country this evening.
“They have made good progress over the last few years and have shown that they can play good football with good results against good teams.
“They have a lot of good players, a few in the Premier League and others in good leagues.
“It will be a good test for us before we play Latvia and Luxembourg in Israel next month and then Moldova.”
The Israel team watched a recording of Northern Ireland’s |3-2 win over Poland back in March after arriving in Belfast yesterday and have been left in no doubt as to the task they face tonight - even if it is only a friendly.
Manager Dror Kashtan has seen his side’s chances of making the World Cup take a hit, but sees Northern Ireland making a challenge.
“We know that Northern Ireland are a very strong team at home with very good supporters who know how to support the team well,” said Kashtan, who will hand a debut to Avihai Yadin of Hapoel Tel Aviv. “They are in second place in the group and they are in with a very good chance of qualifying for the World Cup.”
PROBABLE ISRAEL TEAM: Aouate, Meshumar, Keinan, Strool, Ben Dayan, Yadin, Cohen, Baruonyan, Benayoun, Colautti, Barda.