argentina soccer maccabiah 248.88.
(photo credit: Elan Miller )
Argentina claimed Maccabiah's football gold medal after an epic encounter the final, defeating Britain on a humid summer evening in Haifa's Kiryat Eliezer stadium. In a rematch of the first game of the tournament, when the two played out a one-all draw, Argentina beat Britain 3-2 on penalties after ending 120 minutes with the scored knotted at one apiece.
Backed by a vociferous support, Britain looked at ease from the very start, and soon settled into an eye-pleasing passing game, probing and teasing the Argentina defense as they looked to score the crucial first goal early on. Though Argentina didn't establish themselves quite so quickly, they looked comfortable sitting back, soaking up British pressure in the hope of hitting back with a surprise counterattack.
Although soccer matches between England and Argentina are often fractious affairs following the Falklands conflict almost 30 years ago, this tie was a testament to the spirit of the Maccabiah as both teams committed themselves to playing a fair game.
British nerves were jangling early on as their goalkeeper dropped a cross, presenting Argentina with a half-chance to score. However, Federico Lipoff couldn't take advantage of the opportunity and only managed to scoop the ball high over the bar.
With twenty minutes gone, Britain pierced the Argentinean rearguard and took the lead. Center Forward Paul Hakim broke forward from the center circle and after riding a tackle, found himself one on one with the last Argentinean defender. Looking up, he saw captain Sam Sloma making an unmarked run alongside his own and released the ball into his path. Sloma steadied himself before confidently stroking ball low past the keeper and into the net.
Argentina, who had just started to come into the game, seemed stunned and Britain took advantage by stepping up the pressure to create three good chances in quick succession. The best was produced when Mitch Hahn released Hakim on the right wing, who sent in a superb cross. The ball was met by a diving header from goal-scorer Sloma, who was unfortunate not to be able to divert it into the net.
Britain came racing out of the blocks in the second half as Hahn tested the Argentinean keeper with a stinging free kick from 30 yards, but slowly Argentina came back into the game. The British goalkeeper was tested with a number of shots driven in from distance but Britain's defense held strong. Just as the game was drawing to a close, the South Americans scored a shock equalizer. A dangerous free kick from the left flank eluded everyone and striker Lipoff nodded it in at the back post to level the score at one-all.
"I knew I would score as I had already scored two with my head in this competition," Lipoff told The Jerusalem Post after the game.
Shocked, Britain's support was silenced and the significantly smaller Argentinean contingent, sensing a possible last-gasp win, started to make themselves heard, raucously chanting in support of their country.
With 90 minutes of normal time unable to separate the two, the game moved into extra time.
Argentina, buoyed by their goal, grew in confidence and came close to taking the lead in the first period, and had a goal ruled out. A whipped corner was met by a smart header at the back post but the effort was ruled out as the linesman adjudged the ball to have crept out of play as it was crossed in to the box.
After the two teams missed their opening penalties, Argentina held their nerve to win the gold.
Andres Loterspil, scorer of Argentina's winning penalty, said that he felt "nervous" before the penalty, "but I looked around me and felt good."
Great Britain coach Jonathan Kestenbaum was philosophical in defeat, saying that he was "amazingly proud of this team, the first British team to reach the final for 48 years. We beat Brazil, USA and Israel on the way to the final - a phenomenal achievement."