Israel missed a golden opportunity to qualify for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup on Friday, losing 2-1 to Hungary in its final game of the UEFA European U-19 Championship in Budapest, Hungary.
Despite suffering 3-0 defeats to Portugal and Austria in its first two matches in Group A and losing any hope of reaching the semifinals, the national team still only required a draw against Hungary to qualify for next year’s World Cup in New Zealand due to its superior goal difference.
However, the blue-and-white ended the championship bottom of the group with zero points and just a single goal after falling at the hands of Hungary.
The hosts took the lead in the 25th minute when captain Zsolt Kalmár surged forward and fired past Israel goalkeeper Dean Gal from 20 meters.
Dor Hugy brought Israel back on level terms in the 36th minute when he headed in Mohammed Abu El Hija’s right-wing cross, but Hungary regained its lead almost immediately thanks to Norbert Balogh’s header at the near post three minutes later.
“The better team didn’t win today,” said Israel coach Eli Ohana. “The difference was they scored when they had the chances – and they didn’t have that many – while we created four, five or six chances in the second half but their goalkeeper was in excellent form. We did everything but score, but in football you need a bit of luck; on its own it is not enough, but when you play well and create chances you need a little bit of luck which we missed today.”
Israel was playing for the first time ever in the under-19 continental championship, which has been held in its current format since 2002, replacing the under-18 tournament.
The blue-and-white’s one and only appearance in the under-18 event came in 1997 when the team was led by Yossi Benayoun.
“This is a massive disappointment,” said the star of the current team Michael Ohana. “But we are still happy that we managed to qualify for the tournament.
We had an opportunity to make further history by reaching the World Cup but it wasn’t to be. We hope we can make up for this in the future.”