Dreamers – United as one Israel keeps World Cup hopes alive

Sep 5, 2021 | Football | 2 comments

It was a historic night for Israeli soccer, one that won’t be forgotten for a very long time. The blue-and-white who had come off a 4-0 clinical win over Faroe Islands shocked Austria once again at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa.
A couple of years ago it was Israel pounding the Austrians 4-2 at the same stadium and once again our national team one-upped their last home game against them with a 5-2 win.
It’s not that Austria is a poor national team as they are ranked 23rd in the world as per the latest FIFA rankings and just this past summer the same squad made it to the Round of 16 where they succumbed to the eventual champions Italy in overtime.
But it just seems that Israel gets the better of Austria perhaps because of its own Austrian connection. Back in 2019 when the blue-and-white pummeled Austria 4-2 it was their landsman Andi Herzog who manned the sidelines while this time it was Willi Ruttensteiner who was able to notch the victory over his birth nation. Impressive.
Perhaps Israel is just Austria’s head coach Franco Foda’s black sheep. These things do happen on occasion, however, Israel is usually on the wrong side of these instances. But not this time it seems.
The Austrian media took the team to task as well as their bench boss calling for his removal ASAP. The pressure was all on Austria as Ruttensteiner had said before the game and that was a true as true could be.
Other than the coach, only 3 players in Austria’s starting lineup were the same back in 2019 and this time around their superstar David Alaba was on the pitch. Yes, that same David Alaba who just moved to Spanish giants Real Madrid after having made 281 appearances for Bayern Munich over the course of a decade.
For Israel, five players featured in the 2019 victory in which Eran Zahavi scored a hat-trick and Monas Dabbur had a single strike. For Zahavi this time around he “only” scored a brace which marked his 25th goal in his last 26 games since returning to the national team following his departure from the blue-and-white after having tossed the captain’s armband of the ground.

In fact, with his goal scoring prowess over the last few years, Zahavi has moved to just one goal shy of tying Mordechai “Mottele” Spiegler who holds the Israel National Team record with 32 strikes.

However, this time around Zahavi was able to spread the wealth to starlet Manor Solomon who scored an absolutely brilliant marker that made headlines back in the Ukraine where he plies his trade for Shakhtar Donetsk.

Shon Weissman, another up and coming Israeli player who is currently playing in Spain’s second division for Real Valladolid also scored his first for the blue-and-white.
Dabbur, who scored Israel’s second goal tapping in a gorgeous cross by Sun Menachem drew the ire of the crowd time and time again as they booed the Israeli-Arab every time he touched the ball due to his controversial Instagram post during the most recent-Gaza flare-up back in May.
Following his unsavory post back in the Spring, Dabbur stepped away from the National Team for its friendlies in June but wanted back in for the latest set of games. Along with Ruttensteiner and the rest of the Israel Football Association brass, they worked up a plan to get Dabbur back onto the team with as little amount of controversy as possible. Meetings took place with the entire team as well as discussions with Eran Zahavi and captain Bibras Natcho as to keep the squad united as one which is exactly what took place.

It was known that the fans would voice their opinion concerning Dabbur’s post and everyone was prepared for that as the players and coach made sure to not lash out against them following the game but continued to preach unity and togetherness in order to reach the promised land, Israel’s first World Cup appearance since 1970 in Mexico. Hopefully the next time Israel hosts a World Cup qualifier with Dabbur in the lineup in October the fans will be over their anger and angst against the striker and move on to what is their ultimate goal.

However, the blue-and-white still gave plenty of games to go to make that a reality with a tough away game in Denmark on Tuesday night and visits to Scotland and Austria still on tap in October and November respectively. They’ll also have home games versus Moldova and Faroe Islands but the three games against those countries who are ranked higher than them will be key in clinching second place in the group and a playoff spot. Denmark have basically wrapped up first place having already gone five for five good for 15 points overall to Israel’s ten points which currently places them second in the group.

There’s still a long, long way to go, but Israel is on the right path in order to snatch that playoff spot although the IFA do not even want to discuss that possibility. Should the blue-and-white make it into the qualification’s postseason they’ll still have a long way to go but for a country of dreamers the most important thing is to keep that dream alive.

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  1. DavEy

    Let’s not give up on 1st in division. 3 points in Copenhagen on Tuesday is where it’s at.

    • Joshua Halickman

      That didn’t go exactly to plan did it…

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