The first of the six qualifying group stage matches took place in Israel, who had been given a bye for the first round. Both Australia and today’s Tel Aviv visitors New Zealand had dealt with their first round ties, and there looked to be a certain level of optimism in the Kiwi camp following the return of the charismatic John Adshead. With neither of Israel or the two ‘Down Under’ sides operating with separate squads for Olympic Games qualifiers, the three did have decent knowledge about one another following the bout of qualification matches for Seoul ’88 in March the previous year. Israel had won against New Zealand on both occasions.
The hosts’ five international friendlies since the current management team took charge the previous year had yielded two wins, both against Malta, a draw and two defeats, both against strong opposition. They were performing without some big names in former captains Avi Cohen and Uri Malmilian, and exciting, Belgium based forward Eli Ohana had not featured since February last year. The latter had come into the squad for this tie, though, to bolster head coaches Schneor and Grundman’s options up front.
Home advantage appeared a strong asset to the Israelis in their battle with the two ‘down under’ teams, and in order to lay the foundations for a good run in the qualification, they would need to get off to winning ways.
The All Whites had used pretty much identical line-ups for their two first round games against Chinese Taipei, though they had been boosted ahead of the second leg with the arrival of in-form forward Wynton Rufer, who had scored a hat-trick for his Swiss club side Grasshoppers on the same day as New Zealand had won their first leg 4-0. Rufer had played in central midfield in their 4-3-3 formation. With the Swiss league having its winter break, the younger Rufer brother was once again available for selection. Also playing in the Swiss league was Wynton’s older sibling Shane, a central defender. He had earlier decleared himself available for selection if Mr Adshead needed him. The Rufers were both of Swiss ancestry.
A vital player who had missed out on the Kiwis’ first phase triumph against Chinese Taipei was midfielder Michael McGarry. He was yet again absent for reasons unclear.
It had been a mighty long trek to the Middle East to play their opening group stage qualifier, and surely, New Zealand would look to be content with a point in Tel Aviv.
In their two matches against Chinese Taipei, New Zealand had lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. Would they dare to do something similar in Israel?
35 years of age, Swiss main official Serge Muhmenthaler had arrived from the UEFA zone to take charge of this vital OFC qualification opener. He had only been FIFA listed earlier in the year, and so was making his very first international appearance. Even his two assistants, Philippoz and Rudin, were inexperienced on the main stage, and even in age: 37 and 35 years respectively.
This was the third time Israel and New Zealand had been paired in World Cup qualification. The same had occured also before both tournaments in Mexico (1970 and 1986). Israel had won both encounters (both at home) in 1969, and ultimately indeed qualified for their only World Cup to date, while the pair had won each their home fixture ahead of the competition 16 years later. It had finished with a 3-1 home win in Auckland in Oct ’85 and a 3-0 outcome the following month in Tel Aviv. Thus Israel’s record read 3-0-1 in clashes with the All Whites, as Olympic matches are not considered ‘full’ internationals.
Ramat Gan National Stadium is situated in the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv, immediately to the city’s east. It had been completed by 1951, and had since served as the country’s main footballing stadium, hosting Israel’s home fixtures. Capacity around the time of its inauguration was 51 000, and a major overhaul took place in 1982, to prepare it for the ‘Maccabiah Games’ (often refered to as ‘the Jewish Olympics’) in 1985. This would’ve reduced the official capacity somewhat.
Israel ( – )
|x Bonny Ginzburg||24||Beitar Jerusalem|
|x Avi Cohen II||26||Beitar Jerusalem|
|x Yehuda Amar||25||Hapoel Jerusalem|
|x Nir Alon||25||Hapoel Petah Tikva|
|x David Pizanti||26||Queens Park Rangers|
|x Efraim Davidi||29||Hapoel Be’er Sheva|
|x Nir Klinger||22||Maccabi Haifa|
|x Moshe Sinai (c)||28||Hapoel Tel Aviv|
|x Eli Ohana||51′||25||KV Mechelen|
|x Eli Driks||sub 61′||24||Maccabi Tel Aviv|
|11 Ronny Rosenthal||25||Standard Liège|
|x Reuven Atar||on 61′||20||Maccabi Haifa|
New Zealand ( – )
|1 Clint Gosling||28||Sydney Olympic|
|x Ceri Evans||25||Otago University|
|6 Ricki Herbert (c)||52′||27||Mount Wellington|
|x Garry Lund||22||Christchurch United|
|x Malcolm Dunford||26||Wellington United|
|x Tommy Mason||28||Farnborough|
|x Chris Riley||24||North Shore United|
|x Danny Halligan||sub 69′||24||Christchurch United|
|x Noel Barkley||28||Mount Wellington|
|x Darren McClennan||sub 76′||23||Mount Wellington|
|x Wynton Rufer||26||Grasshoppers|
|x Tony Levy||on 69′||27||North Shore United|
|x Dave Witteveen||on 76′||?||?|
Alas, italia1990.com do not possess sufficient information to confirm the two teams’ outline for this fixture.
The game is not available in full video, which we would’ve prefered, but the scarce footage reveals that the home side were in the ascendancy for the majority of the game, creating several goalscoring opportunities from which they could’ve added to Belgium based forward Ronny Rosenthal’s early strike.
The main thing for the hosts would of course have been to get off to a winning start, and they duly delievered, something which set them up nicely for their remaining three fixtures, of which two were away ties ‘down under’.
As for the visitors, their optimism which had been caused from the (pair of comfortable) wins against Taiwan in the previous round, had received a blow. They would’ve known beforehand that going to Israel and get a result was going to be very tricky, and based on the scant available footage, and indeed its commentating, it was always an uphill struggle for the Kiwis. They lost that early goal from Rosenthal’s fine finish, and could well have conceded further goals. Goalkeeper Gosling made a particularly impressive first half save from a close range Eli Ohana header.
Judging by the playing material which the visitors had put out, they were most likely in that 4-3-3 formation once again. With some prior knowledge about New Zealand, they were easier to judge than the hosts, who, on their account, also appeared to be in a similar formation. However, with video footage available for the upcoming qualifiers, it will soon be revealed what kind of set-up their two head coaches prefered.
This was Israel’s third win in three encounters between this pair of nations within the space of a year.