The Israel Under-20 squad stunned Brazil as the blue-and-white took a 3-2 win in extra time to advance to the semifinals of the World Cup being held in Argentina. Dor Turgeman scored the winning goal with a fantastic individual effort in the area just prior to the end of the first half of overtime, while Anan Khalaili and Hamza Shibli also scored for Israel to comeback twice in regulation time.
Head coach Ofir Haim’s squad will now play the winner of the USA and Uruguay quarterfinal match in the semifinals on Thursday and will also take part in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
“I want to send my condolences to those who lost loved ones and this win is for the entire country,” Ofir Haim began following the game. “We were the better team and we deserved to win, but things always have to be tough for us after we missed both penalties. We were so mentally strong and the players believe in one another. We have so much talent and quality but also a huge heart. We want to now go to the finals.”
הגוף בארגנטינה, הלב בישראל. דור תורג'מן מקדיש את השער לנרצחי הפיגוע FIFA pic.twitter.com/rWvxUDo7sO— כאן (@kann) June 3, 2023
Dor Turgeman who scored the winning goal, spoke about the attack that took place on the Egyptian border: “We had a very tough day in the State of Israel and we want to dedicate this win to their families and to the entire country. We hope that this give them a bit of comfort. As for goal, I did what I needed to do with scoring that goal.”
Moshe “Shino” Zuaretz, the Israel Football Association Chairman, also spoke about team’s win on a very difficult day for the nation: “On such a sad day where we lost three soldiers who were protecting all of us, the Israel National Team played against Brazil in the semifinals. With tremendous fight, amazing talent, unity, and leadership, the blue-and-white made us all proud once again as their tears were for what was gained and what was lost on this day. Israel is now in the semifinals and this isn’t a dream but reality!”
Israelis celebrate the historic win
President Isaac Herzog congratulated the team on Saturday night, tweeting "An amazing game by our youth football team - what a huge victory! You bring us a lot of honor and pleasure these days with wonderful team play and true sportsmanship!"
"Dear Ofir, you united the whole nation for us just like you said. It was very very exciting, it's amazing! Well done!" said Herzog in a conversation with the team after the match. "This also shows that Jews and Arabs know how to work together and live together - well done!"
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the victory as well, writing "'El El Israel! (a celebratory chant used in Israeli soccer) Our young team made history and brought huge pride to the State of Israel!"
Opposition leader Yair Lapid congratulated the team as well, writing "Respect to the Israel under-20 national team, 3-2 against Brazil. Who would have believed? Respect to Ofir Haim, respect to these wonderful children. Amazing! Amazing! Amazing!"
Many Israeli social media users noted that the team is composed of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, pointing to the teamwork among the diverse team.
A historic match for Israeli sports
Brazil and Israel had only played one other time in an official competition which was back in 1976 at the Montreal Summer Olympic Games when the blue-and-white fell to the Selecao 4-1 in the quarterfinals of the tournament.
After a pair of stunning victories thanks to late goals by Omer Senior and Anan Khallaili against Japan in the group stage and Uzbekistan in the Round of 16 respectively, Ofir Haim’s squad looked for another miracle to advance to the semifinals which would also automatically punch their ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
The blue-and-white once again benefited from having fans in the stands in San Juan as the local Jewish community as well as Israelis who had made the trip to Argentina came out in droves. This has been an ongoing theme and advantage for Haim’s team due to FIFA pulling the tournament out of Indonesia at the 90th minute due to the county’s refusal to allow the Israeli team to enter.
Brazil had a pair of terrific chances in the opening minutes to take an early lead of Israel as Marcos Leonardo’s 5th-minute attempt was parried to safety by keep Tomer Tzarfati while the ensuing comer kick saw defender Douglas Mendes just miss the far corner with a header.
Israel’s first chance came in the 20th minute when Tai Abed found Stav Lemkin, but his header just missed the target while ten minutes later Marquinhos came up short with his opportunity as the game remained goalless at the halftime break.
However, the game didn’t remain scoreless for long as Leonardo sent a gorgeous left-footed strike into the top right-hand corner of the goal to give Brazil a 1-0 lead in the 56th minute. But Israel came right back just a few minutes later to draw even when Anan Khalaili headed home the tying goal off an El Yam Kancepolski cross.
Dor Turgeman almost found the go-ahead goal in the 80th minute, but his scorcher was saved by an active Brazilian keeper Kaique as the match went to extra time.
It didn’t take long for Brazil to retake the lead as Matheus Nascimento finished off a team play in the box just twenty seconds into the 30-minute overtime period, but just as Israel did in the second half they came right back to even the score. Hamza Shibli came in on the right side and put home an Ilay Feingold ball to draw even once again at 2-2.
Then came Dor Turgeman who cut inside and outside within the box and fired a left-footer screamer into the goal for a 3-2 lead just before the first portion of the extra time period came to an end. Israel had a pair of chances to add an insurance goal via penalties in the second half of extra time, but Ilay Madmon’s spot kick was saved by the keeper and Ahmad Ibrahim’s penalty went wide, however, Israel was able to hold off Brazil and record the sensational win.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.