The Israeli men’s national soccer team just gave the country something huge to cheer about and something big to look forward to this June when the team will play in the European FIFA qualifiers. The team got there after defeating the Austrian squad yesterday 4-2. Israel will play Latvia on June 7, and Austria will also play again on that same day when it faces off against Slovenia.
By: Armeni Honan
The Israelis were led by Eran Zahavi’s hattrick, who shook the Sammy Offer Stadium in Haifa with his tremendous performance. Zahavi helped further seal the deal by feeding Moanes Dabour down by the net for the team’s fourth and final goal of the match. The Austrians got both of their goals from Marko Arnautović, who scored his second goal in the 75th minute, but the Austrians weren’t able to mount any sort of a late comeback against the Israelis. The victory marks the first time Israel beat Austria in soccer since 1999.
Israel was actually outnumbered by scoring chances, with Austria having 18 attempts versus Israel’s 13. A good number of those Austrian attempts were on target too, but the Israelis were able to fend off the attacks and prove to be much more efficient by scoring more goals with fewer chances. Amazingly, the Israelis faced seven corner kicks and had none themselves. Austria possessed the ball a little more than Israel did throughout the match, and Israel kicked the ball down to the other end of the field a bunch of times while Austria did not do the same. Fouls and penalties were about even for both teams. Israel actually almost had a fifth goal at the end of the second stoppage time and was ready to celebrate until they realized the play was called offsides.
The first half in particular was dramatic, with Zahavi’s scores coming from headers that followed the team trailing Austria at first. Arnautović’s nearly netted another goal but was stonewalled by Israeli goalkeeper Ariel Harush, who had a good game and also made a great stop on a header during that half too during a particularly chaotic moment. Without his early efforts and Zahavi’s goals, Israel may not have had the same momentum and energy it had when it came into the second half and took home the win.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in America for the annual AIPAC conference but said that the team has brought Israel “to a world level. Congratulations to you. This is a harbinger of things to come. True gold!”
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