November 10, 2017

Israel Misses World Cup Again

Etai Barash ‘18

On October 9, the Israeli national soccer team was knocked out of the World Cup qualifiers after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Spain. With the loss, Israel finished with 12 points in the group stages, coming up 11 points shy of the total needed to advance to the next stage. The elimination means the country’s World Cup drought will last for at least another four years, bringing the total to 48 years.
The frustration continues to mount for Israel. In a September 2 loss to Macedonia, former captain Eran Zahavi threw off his captain armband in disappointment. After being suspended indefinitely for this poor behavior, Zahavi retired from the team two days later.
The Minister of Culture and Sport, Miri Regev, condemned the soccer star for “trouncing the values by which we try to educate future generations.” Zahavi’s demonstration was just the boiling point of a tumultuous run for the Israeli team.
Controversy is not new to the Israeli soccer team. At the 1970 World Cup, the last time Israel qualified for the final stages, Morocco threatened to withdraw from the tournament if forced to face Israel. This forced the FIFA Organizing Committee to adjust the style of its tournament, switching from a seeded bracket to a geographical competition.
After receiving a bye in the first round, Israel was scheduled to face North Korea in the second round. However, following in the steps of Morocco, North Korea refused to play in Israel for political reasons. North Korea was forced to withdraw from the tournament, allowing Israel to advance to the final stages of the first round, where they defeated New Zealand and Australia and were able to advance to the group stages.
Israel struggled at this higher level, only receiving two points and watching Italy and Uruguay advance while their team was sent back home. Since this 1970 run, Israel has not qualified for the World Cup again.

The future is not too bright for the Israeli national soccer team. With the departure of their captain, the road to qualification will only be more difficult for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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