Turner Stadium is not the usual place that you will expect to host a Euro qualifiers match. Surrounded by palm trees and desert, the city of Beer Sheva is getting used to being a host city of the Israeli national team.
The newly built stadium had a few opportunities to host international matches. Local team, Hapoel Beer Sheva, reached the Europa League group stage twice. After hosting former European champions such as Inter Milan, Celtic and Steaua Bucharest, you can see that the city knows how to treat its guests.
For the national team, it was a second visit to the stadium. A year ago, Israel hosted Albania in the UEFA Nations League and won 2-0. The warm atmosphere led the Israeli FA to host Euro qualifiers matches again, and the first is against North Macedonia.
Israel had terrible memories from their last home match against North Macedonia. Two years ago, in a late stage of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. Israel was in a bad form, and a goal by Goran Pandev gave the away team a surprising win.
This match was supposed to be just another defeat in a bad campaign, but one moment changed it all. After the fans protested against team captain, Eran Zahavi, he threw away his armband. There were plenty of discussions about this action, and for many fans, it was deemed unacceptable. The FA decided to ban him completely from the national team.
When Andreas Herzog was appointed in July 2018, he decided to go against this decision. From the first moment, he declared that Zahavi would be back to the squad. Herzog was stubborn, and Zahavi showed everyone why. He scored seven goals in the first four matches of the campaign, more than any other Israeli player scored in any full campaign. Against North Macedonia, it was his payback time with another goal.
The next few minutes were completely different than what Herzog and Israel expected. In the 64th minute, Arijan Ademi latched on the opportunity to score an equalizer.
After that moment, Israel was haunted not only the memories from the last match against North Macedonia, but also by almost 50 years of failures. The Israeli players started to feel a bit nervous but were still offensive nonetheless. Their efforts to score were inaccurate, as were some Macedonian dangerous attacks. The draw was inevitable.
Now, after losing such crucial points, Israel will play against Slovenia away on Monday. "If you are coming with a mindset that you always lose, you will eventually lose," said Herzog in the post-match press conference. "My mission is to show them the good things and to speak about what can we do better in the next game."
After this match, the big question is whether Andi Herzog’s team will look fresh on Monday, as we saw in some previous matches, or like the old one with the haunting memories.