Ofir Marciano will watch tomorrow night’s Nations League match between Israel and Scotland from the comfort of his armchair at home, knowing that but for injury he could well have been playing in Haifa’s Sammy Ofer Stadium.
But, insisted the Hibs goalkeeper, he has no regrets at postponing a much-needed operation on his damaged finger, his recovery from surgery in the summer taking longer than anticipated, with Marciano yet to make an appearance for the Easter Road club this season.
The 11-times capped Israeli ignored medical advice and the pain to continue playing for four months after suffering the broken finger during a training session.
It cost him his place in his country’s squad for a friendly against Argentina in June, the South Americans’ final World Cup warm-up match due to have been played in Jerusalem eventually called off in the face of Palestinian protests.
Marciano, however, remains philosophical, saying: “The injury was unexpected and it required a lot of patience. I was carrying it from February, but we were having a great campaign and I didn’t want to miss any games so I went against medical advice which was to have an injection and rest for a few weeks.
“It might have helped, but it was not certain so I took my decision to continue playing and I have no regrets.
“I took a risk and I don’t have any regrets because I’m happy with what we achieved last season. You have to face these things in your career and I’m content with it. I took anti-inflammatory pills and that helped me get through the games, but it was painful.
“You try not to think about it and it was better during games than in training because you’re so focused on the match. I’m not a good spectator, so I didn’t want to miss the chance to play.”
Marciano will pay little though to what might have been as he watches tomorrow night’s game on television, most likely in the company of his great friend, Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton, who also misses out through injury.
He said: “If I go back through my career, I made good decisions and I made bad decisions. This is what makes you a person in life, not just football. I need to be content with my decisions and I believe everything happens for good reason.
“This guides me every day and gives me strength every day. I can’t allow myself to think about negative things.”
Marciano admitted he’s already eyeing next month’s return fixture between the two nations at Hampden, hoping he can first force his way back into Hibs boss Neil Lennon’s plans – although he admitted he faces a battle to oust Hungarian internationalist Adam Bogdan – and then into the thoughts of new Israeli coach Andy Herzog.
Defeat away to Albania in their opening Nations League match has, he conceded, put pressure on Herzog and his players despite the fact Israel currently sit 94th in FIFA’s world rankings and haven’t won a game for two years.
Given that recent record, Marciano admitted, perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a little indifference towards the national side but, he argued, performances such as that in the defeat by Albania have been better than results suggest and he believes they can still spring a surprise on Alex McLeish’s side.
He said: “From outside people might think the standard is not good in Israel, but within the country I think we have good talents. Scotland have a good team, but I believe in Israel and we think there is a real chance to beat Scotland.
“It will be a 50-50 match and if we start well, press high and try to be dominant then I think we have a good chance to win the game. However, it will be a challenge because Scotland were brilliant in their last match in the group.”
The Celtic contingent within McLeish’s squad will immediately recognise the name of Moanas Dabour, the striker who scored two goals for RB Salzburg as the Austrian side defeated them 3-1 in their recent Europa League tie.
Marciano said: “We have good players, especially in the attacking positions. If you look at Dabour last year, he had a brilliant campaign in the Europa League with Salzburg reaching the semi-finals. It was like he scored in every game.
“I don’t know why he isn’t already in a top league because he’s shown consistently he’s really good. Every year he scores about 15 or 20 goals. It’s just a matter of someone giving him a chance and his team selling him.
“He is one of the best players in our squad at the moment but there is also Tomer Hemed who was playing for Brighton and is now at Queens Park Rangers. These are players at an excellent level who can really affect the game in the final third.
“But we also have some talent in defence and good young players in the domestic league coming through who can make a difference.”
While the Nations League has a number of critics – Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp describing it as “the most senseless competition in the world of football” – Marciano revealed he is a fan of the new format, adding: “I think it is a great platform for us as a country at our level.
“We are not Spain or Italy or Germany and it is a great way to test ourselves against teams at the same level. It’s great because you don’t waste your time on friendlies. They are good but it is better when you have something to play for and I think it is a good idea from UEFA to invent this league.
“I think it can improve your chances to go through.”