England soccer team's coach praises Israel

"They showed what a proud nation they are," says McClaren after nat'l team's 2-1 win against Russia.

mcclren 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
mcclren 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
England soccer coach Steve McClaren on Saturday night praised Israel for beating Russia and dramatically increasing the Three Lions' chances of qualifying for Euro 2008. "What a night. Absolutely fantastic news for us all," McClaren told www.thefa.com. "I would like to pay tribute to Israel for the professional way they went about their job. They showed what a proud nation they are and they deserve a lot of praise for their efforts." Russia would have all but progressed to the European Championships with victory on Saturday. However, England's fate is now back in its own hands and should it win or draw against Croatia on Wednesday it will advance to the tournament in Austria and Switzerland. Israel's 2-1 victory at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan showed that its future may not be so bleak after all and that there are plenty of reasons for optimism ahead of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. The blue-and-white's win also ensured that Croatia will be in Euro 2008, despite its 2-0 loss to Macedonia on Saturday night. Israel was one goal up at the break after an excellent first half, with Elyaniv Barda elegantly chipping the ball over the Russian keeper in the 10th minute. The Russian's picked up their play in the second half and got a deserved equalizer in the 61st minute. Goalkeeper Dudu Awat could do nothing against Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's powerful shot and the match was set for a scintillating ending. In the 90th minute the visitors were centimeters away from the European Championships after Dmitri Sychev hit the post. Israel, however, would snatch an unlikely victory a minute later. Golan stole the ball from the Russian defense, played a one-two with Barda and finished with aplomb. Golan is set to receive English millionaire Fred Done's £50,000 Mercedes as a reward for his goal. On Friday, Done, founder of BetFred.com, offered his prized possession to any Israel player who scored the winner in the game.