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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Great Britain was left at the bottom of Group D after a desperate 2-1 loss to France on Wednesday night in Haifa's Neve Sha'anan Stadium. The match was evenly contested, but the French were able to break through the British defense twice, and fully capitalized on both chances.
France looked like a different side to the team who lost 3-0 in the team's opener against Brazil. Wednesday's victory means they now sit third in the so-called "group of death" which also includes football heavyweights Brazil and Argentina.
France will now play Argentina on Thursday knowing that a win or a draw will be enough to put it through to the quarterfinals.
The first half was a scrappy affair with the game interrupted by frequent fouls committed by both sides. But after about twenty minutes the pace settled down and France, playing in their traditional blue uniforms, began to exert pressure on the British defense.
At the half-way point, the score was still goalless, much to the consternation of the French team, who were disappointed not to have made their pressure count. After the break, both teams came out with renewed enthusiasm and only five minutes in, France drew first blood.
The goal came from a nice move that resulted in forward Ilan Librati being sent clear through in the penalty box. Librati made no mistake, hitting the ball hard and low, beyond the goalkeeper's grasp.
With France intent on disrupting the rhythm of the game, the match soon reverted to the stop-start affair it had been before the break, and Britain found their chances to break beyond the French defense severely limited.
With only minutes remaining and the score delicately poised at 1-0, France inflicted a telling blow by scoring a crucial second goal. Striker Jeremy Chamak pounced as a goal-kick was allowed to bounce over the head of Britain's right-back and he coolly slotted the ball into the goalkeeper's bottom left corner.
The game was not yet over and Britain found time to score a goal deep into injury time when Jon Kurrant reacted well to volley in a corner that had been initially cleared by the French defense. The shot hit the ground and looped over the opposing goalkeeper into the net, but his effort ultimately proved to be in vain as the referee ended the match before Britain could score again.
"We came for a game of football and we got a battle." Kurrant told The Jerusalem Post after the match.
Britain coach Jonathan Kestenbaum remained determined and spoke optimistically about his team's prospects of qualifying for the quarters.
"We're disappointed but there's quality in this team. We'll go on Friday and give it our all against Brazil."