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By ESPN Staff

Israel coach Kashtan blasted after Croatia defeat

JERUSALEM, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Israel coach Dror Kashtan came in for heavy criticism on Thursday following the 4-3 Euro 2008 qualifying loss to Croatia, some commentators describing the home team's defending as 'scandalous'.

Croatia dominated for most of Wednesday's match and ended Israel's seven-year unbeaten run in Tel Aviv after surviving an early scare when the hosts took an early lead.

The defeat rekindled memories of a 5-0 home defeat by Denmark in 1999. Hours after that loss news broke of a sex scandal involving escort girls and some of the players.

The comparison was not lost on the daily Maariv, which broke the 1999 story and referred to it in a play on words in Hebrew on Thursday, terming the Israel's players 'escort boys' in the headline of its main story on the Group E match.

'We so convinced ourselves (that we would win) but we did not take into account our true ability, the spoilt character and the mediocrity of the players,' columnist Eyal Levy wrote.

Team captain Yossi Benayoun said the defeat had greatly damaged Israel's hopes of qualifying for the finals.

'With the win, Croatia now look almost certain to win the group and with England in the running, our chances are not good. After all, England are a much better side than us, on paper, at least,' the West Ham midfielder told Army Radio.

At his post-match news conference Kashtan left some reporters incredulous when he said: 'The spectators saw seven goals, they got full value for their money.'

Shlomi Barzel in the Ha'aretz broadsheet called on Kashtan to quit.

'The most decorated Israeli coach proved that he is an old-fashioned tactician lacking vision ... why give a second chance to extricate Israel from the mire when he was the one who put them there in the first place,' Barzel wrote.

'There is a limit to our forgiveness.'

Croatia top the group with 10 points from four matches, ahead of Russia (8) and England (7). Macedonia also have seven points (from five games), as do Israel from four.