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(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israel's players did their best to regain some self respect on Wednesday evening, smashing Luxembourg 7-0 in a near-irrelevant World Cup qualifier at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
Elyaniv Barda scored a first half hat trick and Ben Sahar got two after coming on in the second.
But the effects of Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Latvia, which all but ended Israeli hopes of qualifying for South Africa 2010, were plain to see.
The situation was summed up as the players emerged for the second half on Wednesday evening, with Israel already leading 4-0.
Those in charge of the loudspeaker somehow decided it would be a good idea to play the national team fans song which had been launched earlier this year.
It was ironic to hear the catchy tune with the words describing how "the fans must have belief and then Israel will make it to the World Cup," in a stadium nearly empty of supporters waiting to watch the continuation of a drab and meaningless fixture being played by a group of less than unmotivated players.
Despite the four goals, the first 45 minutes had been some of the least inspiring to be seen at the National Stadium for a very long time.
Rather than coming out with fire in their eyes, eager to prove the critics wrong, Dror Kashtan's players continued where they left off, playing with hardly any fight or imagination.
There were plenty of goals for Israel throughout the match, but the opposition, ranked 115th in the world, was so mediocre it meant very little. If Israel had nothing left to play for, nor had Luxembourg, the team which has been bottom of Group 2 for most of the campaign.
"We started playing well like we did against Latvia, the difference was we scored the goals, Kashtan said. "The players moved the ball well. It is not simple to score seven goals and I am happy with the game, the result and the team."
Elyaniv Barda opened the scoring for the home side with a deft lob over visiting goalkeeper Marc Oberweis in the ninth minute. Aviram Bruchian then doubled Israel's lead from a free kick which was deflected in off a defender as the clock reached a quarter of an hour.
Yossi Benayoun finally showed some skill in the 20th minute, threading through a clever ball to Barda who scored his second and Israel's third. And with two minutes to go until the half, the Genk striker had his hat trick, knocking in from close range after Oberweis parried away a Bruchian shot to make it 4-0.
After a weak start to the second period, Omer Golan turned in a Barda cross and it was 5-0. Barda was immediately replaced by Ben Sahar, a move which brought the first real cheer from the paltry crowd of 7,000.
And the supporters really woke up a few minutes later when the former Chelsea striker coolly slotted home to increase the lead to 6-0.
The closest Luxembourg came to scoring was in the 80th minute when FC Metz left back Mario Mutsch darted into the area, chested down a cross and placed the ball well wide of the goal.
Seven minutes from time Sahar scored again to make it seven to the delight of the supporters, most of whom appeared to believe he should have been in the starting 11 in place of Golan.
Israel U21s defeat Kazakhstan 2-1
Also Wednesday, Israel's Under-21 team continued its campaign for the 2011 European Championship with a 2-1 win away to Kazakhstan.
Bibras Natcho opened the scoring in the 56th minute, making amends for missing a first half penalty. But the Kazakhs pulled one back just two minutes later through Damir Dautov and it was left to Betar Jerusalem striker Toto Tamuz to clinch the victory in injury time from a Guy Assulin cross.
The result gave Israel its second away win of the campaign to qualify for the finals in Denmark, ahead of the home game against Montenegro next month. Bulgaria played Sweden late Wednesday in the other Group 6 game.
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