BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
DEADLY Moanes Dabour has already put Celtic to the sword the season.
And Ofir Marciano insists his Israel international teammate has the talent to do the same to Scotland.
Dabour, 26, bagged a brace as big-spending Red Bull Salzburg swept the Hoops aside on Europa League duty last week, continuing his remarkable scoring record in the competition.
The prolific attacker found the net five times in the tournament last term as the Austrians reached the semi-final stage, narrowly losing out to Marseille for a place in the Lyon showpiece. He also finished as top scorer in the league as Salzburg won their fifth consecutive title.
Hibs keeper Marciano, who boasts 11 caps for his country, admits he is staggered that Dabour is not already plying his trade in one of Europe’s top league, having proved himself as a consistent marksman with Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Grasshopper Zurich and Salzburg.
“If you look at Dabour last year, he had a brilliant campaign in the Europa League,” lauded Marciano. “They reached the semi-final and it was like he scored in every game.
“He is one of the best players in our squad at the moment.
“I don’t know why he isn’t there [in a major European league] at the moment because he’s shown consistently that he is at a really high level.
“Every year he scores about 15 or 20 goals so I think he’s already at the standard required to be a big success at a top club, it’s just a matter of someone giving him a chance and his team [Salzburg] selling him.
“We [Israel] have good players, especially in the attacking positions. As well as Dabour, we have Tomer Hemed, who was playing for Brighton and is now at QPR. These are players at an excellent level who can really affect the game in the final third.”
Israel have only won one of their last 10 fixtures – a narrow 1-0 triumph in Liechtenstein – and kicked off their Group C1 campaign in the Nations League with a 1-0 reverse against Albania. Their most recent game was a chastening 3-0 defeat in a friendly against Northern Ireland.
Nevertheless, Marciano is anything but downbeat regarding his country’s chances of seeing off the Scots in Haifa tomorrow night as new boss Andi Herzog puts his stamp on the side.
“People might think the standard is not good in Israel, but the view within the country is that we have real talents,” continued Marciano. “We think there is a real chance to beat Scotland. If we start well, press high and try to be dominant then I think we have a good opportunity.
“With the new manager [Herzog] we’re trying to build a good group that can go further and try to involve the young players. The Nations League can give those players a chance.
“The game against Scotland is going to be crucial and I hope that we can perform and take three points.”
Given he has been plying his trade in Scotland for two years – and was even a teammate of Scotland star John McGinn – Marciano is well-placed to carry out spying duties on behalf of his compatriots.
“I can’t tell you that. It is a national secret!” was his reaction to that suggestion.
He did, however, reveal that he will be enjoying the fixture alongside another familiar face to Scottish football fans – after arranging to watch it was Celtic and Israel ace Nir Bitton.
“I’ll probably watch with my family and maybe with Nir,” continued Marciano, “He is also injured so we’ll maybe watch it together. It might be a strange atmosphere if we go out to watch it in Glasgow!”
Marciano has been restricted to a watching brief during this international break due to his ongoing recovery from surgery to cure a broken finger during the summer.
He readily concedes that he exacerbated the problem by playing through the pain barrier from February onwards – resulting in him missing the entirety of the current campaign to date.
However, he was fit enough to be on the bench for Hibs’ 6-0 hammering of Hamilton and has declared himself ready for a glove battle for the number one spot with Adam Bogdan.
“It is a great challenge for me. Adam is doing well, the team is doing great and it is a situation you have to accept,” added Marciano. “I must work hard, be patient and create a chance for myself. I need to show the gaffer that he can trust me again and whenever he needs me I will be here and ready to play.
“Competition for places will always help you to a higher level – but the best thing you can do is compete with yourself and set high standards for yourself and try to beat that every day.
“I believe in karma and as long as I work hard and prove myself then I will get my chance.”