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By ESPN Staff

Israel appoint Guttman as new coach

Israel have appointed former Hapoel Tel-Aviv manager Eli Guttman as their new coach.

Guttman, 53, has been handed the task of leading Israel to their first World Cup finals since 1970 after his appointment was unanimously approved by the Israel Football Association.

"Today I am fulfilling a dream although it is only half a dream - the other half would be to complete qualification for the World Cup,'' Guttman told reporters at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

"Of course that is a huge goal, but if we can achieve smaller goals along the way then maybe that will be possible.''

Guttman replaces Frenchman Luis Fernandez, whose contract was not renewed after he failed to lead Israel to the Euro 2012 finals.

The two-time Israeli Premier League winner, whose first appointment will be against Ukraine on February 29, will return to the sidelines for the first time since May after recovering from heart surgery.

Guttman has been one of the most successful managers in Israel in recent years, leading Hapoel to the league and cup double last year, before helping them into the Champions League group stages for the first time.

Despite his recent links with Hapoel, Guttman warned: "I say to everyone that I am sympathetic to all teams in the league and will accordingly call players up on a professional basis.

"I feel excitement and pride to take on this role. It runs in my blood and I know that this team is not mine, but the whole of Israel's.''

Israeli FA chairman Avi Luzon added: "I don't believe there has ever been such consensus over the choice of a coach as there is with Eli, everybody in the country, administrators, coaches, players and fans think he is the right man for the job."

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