Soccer-Israel coach Guttman given two-year contract extension


By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Israel coach Eli Guttman has been given a two-year contract extension, the Israel Football Association said on Wednesday, despite his failure to take the national side to this year's World Cup finals.

Guttman, 55, was effectively unopposed for the position, as a committee set up to seek other candidates disbanded within days of its creation after the governing body announced that Guttman would get the nod for a further two years.

Guttman's appointment in 2011 was welcomed but Israel disappointed during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers with dour displays, and finished third in a group that included Russia, Portugal, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland and Luxembourg.

The Israeli has coached many clubs in a 35-year career and began as an understudy to Shlomo Scharf, Israel's longest-serving coach between 1992-99, as Israel became a member of UEFA in 1994.

Guttman had most success coaching Hapoel Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv, clubs with whom he has won two league championships and three State Cups. He also coached Cypriot sides Paralimni and AEL Limassol.

Israel have failed to qualify for any major competition since the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico, but with 24 finalists expected for Euro 2016, Guttman's chances of success appear to have received a boost.

Israel also hope to benefit from hosting their Euro 2016 qualifiers at a number of modern stadiums around the country after the Israeli FA decided to stop playing at the ageing National Stadium in Tel Aviv, which is scheduled to undergo reconstruction.

(Writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Stephen Wood)

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