Israel prove a point to Russia … as predicted here

November 19, 2007

Israel players celebrate Golan’s goalIt’s nice when your colleagues from abroad call for your “expert advice” when they want to be reassured and it’s even more satisfying when your prediction turns out to be correct.

It’s not often that I feel I can utter the phrase ‘I told you so!’ but Saturday night was one such time — and it felt doubly good when Israel beat Russia in Tel Aviv and kept England alive in Euro 2008.

The form book said that it would not happen and there were many England fans missing a heartbeat at the thought that their already faint-looking hopes would be dealt a killer blow when the Russians stormed to victory against a second-rate team.

I promised that Israel’s exemplary home record — they have lost only once here in seven years — would not be easily wrecked. Of course, I would not stick my neck out to say that Israel definitely would not lose, but their record gave me enough confidence to be cautiously optimistic (see the piece I wrote for this blog after England’s defeat in Moscow).

Saturday’s 2-1 win was not only a great result for Steve McClaren, who was apparently in the bathroom for the last 10 minutes, it was probably Israel’s best home result in a competitive match since 1999 when they destroyed Austria 5-0 in a Euro 2000 qualifier.

As journalists we are impartial when describing the action of any match, but at the same time we are people with feelings. On Saturday I got a double reward — as did so many others who wanted Israel to win so that England could stay alive in Euro 2008.

Israelis have been brought up on English soccer, which has been shown here since proper television began in the late 1960s. Due mainly to this, you would be hard pressed to find an Israeli soccer fan who, as well as supporting his own local outfit, does not follow closely the fortunes of an English and/or Scottish team.

It was no surprise, then, that as Omer Golan turned from a total unknown (even for many Israeli soccer fans) into an English household name, and Italian referee Stefano Farina prepared to blow the final whistle, there was unbounded joy as English and Israeli journalists celebrated openly along with the majority of the 27,568 spectators.

Ori Lewis is a Reuters correspondent based in Jerusalem

PHOTO: Israel’s Omer Golan (bottom) celebrates the team’s second goal against Russia with team mates during their Euro 2008 Group E qualifying soccer match at Ramat Gan stadium near Tel Aviv, November 17, 2007. REUTERS/Oleg Popov

4 comments

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good to hear that england have to relay on israel to win to even qualify shocks me, we need to not draw against russia but send out a message to portrugal spain france italy (teams that would ruin croatia isreal russia) that we are serious about our 2008 campaign and we want that trophey! unless this is seen we will stumble again! this isnt the hurdles, our group stage should have been a sprint. changes need to be made

Posted by badger | Report as abusive

*where i said russia i mean croatia

Posted by badger | Report as abusive

so it seems mclaren has a stay of execution.The fa will no doubt paper over the cracks and pat themselves on their spinless backs for overseeing
another qualification.Lets get o neil in for the tournament so we have a manager who can make a big decision and stick to it.If not then well all be watching big brother 9 not the final stages of europes finest football show.

Posted by roger barclay | Report as abusive

i agree roger! you know your stuff, england need to get a new manager

Posted by Micheal lowens | Report as abusive