Israel coach Andrea Herzog enjoys birthday before Windsor clash against Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's Steven Davis during training yesterday
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis during training yesterday

Israel coach Andreas Herzog enjoyed his 50th birthday celebrations with his players before getting down to the business of preparing for Tuesday night’s friendly against Northern Ireland.

The Austrian is still getting to know his players having only taken the job at the start of August - Friday’s loss to Albania is his only match in charge so far - so the moment of his half-century proved another useful bonding moment with the squad.

“It was great,” he said. “I’ve only been here for a couple of weeks so it’s good for the players to get an idea of me and I learn everyday more about my players and that’s important for the future of course.

“It’s my 50th birthday, it’s a special day but the players were singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me in all different kinds of languages.”

Herzog has a task on his hands with Israel having won only one of their last nine matches. That record does not read massively different to Northern Ireland’s right now, though Herzog was full of praise for the job Michael O’Neill has done in getting his side to Euro 2016 and narrowly missing out on a World Cup place.

“I want to give a big compliment to Michael O’Neill for what he’s been doing for the last couple of years,” he said.

“It’s been really, really impressive and this will be a good test for us because our next game is at home against Scotland (in the UEFA Nations League).”

Although Herzog took encouragement from the way in which his side created chances against Albania, their defensive lapses will give Northern Ireland hope and that - as well as finishing - is what Herzog will be focusing on next.

“I’ve seen that my players have a very good technical level and like to go forward but we need to go forward with a good shape behind the ball,” he said.

“That’s key part for the next couple of games is to be smarter when we lose the ball. This caused us some problems in Albania.

“Going forward I had the feeling we are always able to create chances which is what made me confident we have a good team for the next couple of of games. But there has to be more determination in the box so when we get the chances to score we do everything to get the ball in the net.”

Herzog remains Austria’s most capped player, having made 103 appearances, and has spent much of the time since taking the Israel job being reminded of the goal he scored which denied his new employers a place in the 2002 World Cup.

“You are not the first to ask me,” he said with a smile. “It was a long time ago, 17 years ago, and at this time I was the captain of Austria and I had to do everything for my country.”