The great sensation of Israel's youth team, which beat Brazil's youth team last night, becomes even clearer when one realizes that for the public these are two very clear and clear definitions of football.
The Israeli national team: participation in only one World Cup in 1970, zero appearances in the European Championship, more heartbreaking moments than heartwarming moments, countless disappointments, failures, failure to live up to expectations. Synonymous with a sporting entity that fails to realize itself.
An evening that will be remembered in Israel. The youth team celebrates, photo: Reuters
Brazil national team: five-time world champion, nine-time South American champion, Pele, Ronaldinho, Romario. Jogo Bonito, Padalada, Salsão. Brazil is the name used when you want to empower a team/team. "Buena, they play like Brazil." The queen of football, the symbol of power.
Or Israelov celebrating, photo: Reuters
The Israeli and Brazilian teams are so different that it seems that there is no track in the world of soccer tournaments of all ages that will bring them together in an official match. It hasn't happened since 1976, and suddenly in Argentina, at the moment of the Under-20 World Cup final, they go side by side on the grass of the stadium in San Juan.
A historic victory, photo: Reuters
And that's the beauty of this tournament. He has already proven over the years that he has no ability to predict the future, nor does he rely on the past. This is truly a tournament that reflects the present more than anything else. And at present, the definitions are irrelevant. In the present, Israel beat Brazil 2-3 in the World Cup quarterfinals after falling behind twice and missing two penalties.
Israel's players celebrate, Brazil's players disappointed, photo: AFP
The general atmosphere in the stadium in San Juan was different from the morning. The FIFA representative, who until now had been light and smiling, stood before us with a sealed face and clarified: "This time it's different. It's a quarter-final, and that's Brazil." There are teams that bring prestige to their very existence, and Brazil is the archetype of this. The yellow uniforms, the accent, the anthem, the names of the players – all these shake the heart even before a single ball is kicked.
The actors thank the Israeli audience who came to Argentina, Photo: Reuters
No one would criticize Ofir's team if it too groveled to the empire, but Ofir Haim's team didn't come here to grovel to anyone. Since landing in Argentina, Haim has claimed that his goal is to stay here until the last game. This remained his mantra after losing the first game, the draw in the second, and also after Israel fell behind 0-1 in ten players against Japan. His faith and that of his players is contagious, and proving itself, but with all due respect to it is not the reason the team is in the semi-finals.
Dor Turgeman celebrates a triumphal arch with a moving tribute to the families of the fighters who were killed, Photo: AP
It's a great football team. Trained, organized, talented as a demon and aware of its virtues and shortcomings. The day before the match against Brazil, at the national team hotel, Haim opened the door to the broadcast team and told the broadcast team what his tactical plans were and what he would like to see from his players. Spoiler alert: everything he said happened. The attacks from the flanks, the help to the defenders, the substitutions, and especially the bottom line: "We are coming to win".
Ofir Haim celebrates with Anan Halaili. Another huge win for the coach, photo: Reuters
In fact, it quickly became clear that in the present there is a lot of logic to this statement. Israel pounced on the Brazilians from the first second, surrendering as if it were Manchester City and Brazil Stoke City. Both teams managed to create situations, each in their own way, but once again Ofir Haim's team finished the first 45 minutes without a goal. Meanwhile, hundreds of Argentine Israelis/Jews continued to cheer in the gallery.
"Landed at home"
Minutes before kick-off, they were informed that a huge deployment flag they had prepared was not allowed into the stadium due to permit issues, so they used dozens of small flags, avocados, and mostly their throats to push the team. It was very necessary after a Brazilian advantage goal early in the second half, which within three minutes was converted into an equaliser. Al-Yam Kanzpolsky stepped up, Anan Halaili, another perfect performance by an excellent team. By the end no more goals had been scored and for the first time in the tournament the team went into extra-time.
Israeli victory over one of the strongest teams in the tournament - Brazil, Photo: AP
As part of shattering myths about Israeli football, in the last 30 minutes the team crushed the issue of brittle character by coming back from 1-2 down in 90 seconds thanks to a goal by substitute Hamza Shibli. She later broke the fitness issue by running like a maniac all over the place, and then debunked the loser image. Dor Turgeman, who entered the game wearing tape bearing the inscription "In memory of the victims of the attack," took the ball on the edge of the area and went on a spectacular slalom that ended in Brazil's net and made it 2-3.
Ofir Haim. The coach makes history, photo: AP
"We wanted to give some comfort to people back home," he said at the end; "We share in the grief of the families." This team was so far from our definition of the Israeli national team that it allowed itself to miss two penalties against Brazil and still celebrate at the end of a victory like no other. A victory that ignores the past, not sure it tells anything about the future, but presents a mighty, mighty, rare present.
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Fans of the Israeli national team in the stands. They couldn't believe their eyes, Photo: AP
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