It may have been so very predictable, but Israel’s 3-1 defeat to Russia in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening was still no less disappointing.

After seeing its hopes of qualifying for a first World Cup since 1970 dashed with a 1-1 home draw against Azerbaijan on Saturday, the national team was playing mainly for pride in Russia.

Coach Eli Gutman’s defensive game-plan worked to perfection in the first 45 minutes, but Russia burst out of the gates after a goalless first half, scoring twice within four minutes to effectively clinch all three points.

“I’m not disappointed from this match,” said Gutman, who is hoping to be given two more years at the helm after the national team’s campaign comes to an end next month with the matches against Portugal and Northern Ireland.

“I know that Russia is clearly a better team than Israel. So far there have been two disappointing results in this campaign which were the draws against Azerbaijan. We are simply not good enough to finish in the top two. I may have raised the expectations by saying that I believe we can qualify for the World Cup, but I did so out of love, pride and passion.”

Russia was in control from the first whistle, but Israel initially limited the hosts to very few chances and the national team was delighted to end the first half in a deadlock.

However, the blue-and-white would capitulate in the first eight minutes of the second half.

Four minutes after the break, Vasili Berezutski made the most of the time and space he was given in the center of the box to net the opener. Three minutes later, Aleksandr Kokorin clinched the victory with a sensational shot from the edge of the area and Denis Glushakov made it 3- 0 in the 74th minute, scoring from the rebound of Roman Shirokov’s missed penalty.

Eran Zahavi scored his first goal for Israel in stoppage time from a cross by promising left-back Ofir Davidzada, but even that didn’t bring smiles to the faces of Israel’s players after a dejecting four days that ended any dream the blueand- white may have had of reaching the World Cup.

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