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Nigeria victory is a stepping stone to World Cup - Jane

Football
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Berkovic aims to take over as Israel coach

JERUSALEM, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Outspoken midfielder Eyal Berkovic says he is ready to take over as Israel coach and that incumbent Avraham Grant should quit.

In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 on Saturday, the 35-year-old Berkovic said a younger coach was needed after all the older men had failed to take Israel to the World Cup finals since 1970.

'I am prepared to retire (from playing) today...and coach the national team,' he said. 'Maybe it's time to bring in new blood, people who understand today's players, their psyche.

'If they ask me, I'll do it. It's an honour to coach the national team.'

Berkovic, who won 82 caps, is back playing in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv after spending nine years in Britain with Southampton, West Ham United, Celtic, Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City and Portsmouth.

He said Grant was wrong to portray as a success Israel's six draws in the World Cup qualifying campaign against Group Four rivals France, Switzerland, Ireland, Cyprus and Faroe Islands.

'I think it was a respectable campaign,' said Berkovic referring to Israel's third-place finish. 'But we are no longer interested in being respectable.

DIFFERENT APPROACH

'He (Grant) said we have never had such successes but did he win many matches? Should we be proud of home draws?' said the midfielder.

'I have a different approach...we have great attacking players. I would want to win, I do not think a draw is a good result.

'People say 'a draw, what pride', what are they talking about? What pride can there be in a draw?'.

Berkovic was left out of the qualifying campaign by Grant.

'It's nothing personal against Avraham. I respect him...he made a mistake and he should admit it and leave.

'He saw Greece's success (at Euro 2004) and thought he could also 'win ugly' by playing defensively and grabbing a goal. But he forgot we don't have Greece's ability to score with headers from corners,' said Berkovic.

'He was scared I might criticise him occasionally so he said 'I'll leave him out'.'

Grant has refused to criticise Israel's Football Association for its delay in either re-appointing him or sacking him.

But he is adamant his second spell in charge has been a success.

'(Group winners) France scored less goals than we did but took their chances. We have built up a group of strikers who I am sure will make their mark in the next campaign,' said Grant.