Ofir Marciano hopes to use his fresh start at Hibs to re-establish himself as Israel’s first-choice goalkeeper after a lack of game time at club level caused him to lose his place in the squad.
The 26-year-old started all ten of his nation’s Euro 2016 qualifiers and was widely deemed in his homeland to have made the No.1 spot his own. However, Marciano’s move from Ashdod to Belgian club Mouscron-Peruwelz last summer swiftly turned sour and he found himself out of the team by August, placing a question mark over his Israel place.
Although he kept the gloves for the remaining few months of the last qualifying campaign, he hasn’t featured for his country since their last competitive match, away to Belgium, in October. Having not played at club level for a full year, it came as little surprise when Marciano didn’t make the Israel squad – announced yesterday morning – for the upcoming World Cup qualifier at home to Italy.
However, he is optimistic that playing regularly at Hibs, where he has already been earmarked as Neil Lennon’s No.1 after signing on a season-long loan, will allow him to get back in the squad and set about reclaiming the gloves.
“The biggest games of my career were for the national team, against teams like Belgium, Wales and Bosnia,” said Marciano. “It’s a privilege to represent your country – that is the highest level possible to play. Every time I get called I do my best for the national team. I hope I am back in soon.”
The feeling in Israel is that, when playing regularly, Marciano is one of the top goalkeepers available to national team coach Elisha Levy. If all goes to plan at Hibs in the coming weeks, he is expected to be restored to the squad for the October double-header against Macedonia, and Liechtenstein.
“As long as he plays games for Hibs, he will definitely be back in for the qualifiers in October,” Israeli football journalist Raphael Gellar told the Evening News. “He did really well in the Euro 2016 qualifiers, but he has had a really tough time at club level recently. Even Yossi Benayoun, one of our greatest-ever players, didn’t get picked when he wasn’t playing for his club, so Ofir was never going to get picked for this squad. But I think it will just be a case of someone at the national team checking he is back playing, putting in a call to him to check he is feeling good, and then he will be back in. A lot will depend how the Italy game goes, but once he gets back in I think it will be between him and Boris Kleyman [the 25-year-old Beitar Jerusalem keeper] for the No.1 spot.”
Marciano is in line to make his Hibs debut at home to Morton today after this week concluding a protracted process to be granted a work permit.