England Can Say Thanks to Israel

Israel/England 2 Russia 1

It’s was almost a bit of arrogance by the Dutch master, Gus Hiddink, which could have foreshadowed Russia’s defeat to Israel.  Gus said England didn’t deserve to go through.  Almost like President Bush, on the aircraft carrier saying, ‘Mission Accomplished’. Way too soon to be making those types of statements. Sure, the phrases aren’t nearly analogous, but you get the picture. And the Gus Hiddink quote wasn’t quite so bad in context, but with news pieces you try to grab a bit more attention and often this is done by taking a phrase a bit out of context—you know.

Gus Hiddink:  “If we analyze this group and the teams, then England do not deserve to qualify. Russia have been consistent.”

Here’s a smart headline catcher: Can the man from Nazareth resurrect qualification hopes?

Aouate, the Israeli keeper, did just that today for England/Israel, who plies his trade at Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga.  He managed to come away with a win for his country, withstanding all the Russian crosses and attacks.

But Aouate, more than anyone, is the player on whom England, as well as Israel, now depend to hold Russia at bay in Tel Aviv today. If the man from Nazareth can keep a clean sheet, England’s fading hopes of making it to next summer’s tournament will be dramatically resurrected.

Isn’t football a wonderful sport? What a result for Israel/England? All the sliding tackles by the Israeli defense, the fight, the brave defensive headers, a few one twos late in the game that underlined their win—what a classy, battling display they put on.

Late in the match, however, three passes and the Russians were through, but Israel/England can thank the post.  The forward was pressed from the side by two defenders but had a good look, tried to slot the ball home but it sliced just off the post.

The camera shot to Roman Abramovich in the stands, who was he cheering for? The Russian tycoon and owner of Chelsea, with a new Israeli coach guiding his club.  He was probably weighing the pluses and minuses for English football and Chelsea if England qualify for Euro 2008, and then his own pride for his country.

Clearly good for his club, I would think, if England plays in Euro 2008.  Don’t want football in England taking a step down to other countries because they can’t get into the party–but that’s up for grabs still.  Croatia awaits them, fortunately the game’s at Wembley.

The Israel head coach said it best, and it was great to see the Israeli fans waiving their flags in the stands, out of Euro 2008, but still on the world stage, and the news about soccer rather than conflict, walls or deaths. That’s what’s marvelous about football, being able to cheer collectively for your country–everyone united in the joy of a strong effort and hard work done, a win for their side to boot.

He said: ‘This is a decisive match for two big national teams and the Israeli fans should proudly support our squad.’

‘We have to play a positive style of soccer and win. Everything surrounding it will influence our national team’s ranking in the future.’

His team did play a positive style and Steve McClaren can thank him too, his job saved for now.

Do I have to mention Beckham in this article? Ok sure, if England can tie or beat Croatia, he just might exceed the 100 caps mark he’s shooting for.

For some reason I thought of the scene at the beginning of Syriana when this game was winding down.  The scene where Clooney is at an early morning party. That’s the party I picture in Tel Aviv right now after this win. Israel will be partying like they’ve won Euro 2008 and England will be toasting Israel with their pints for some time.

Here’s the video, based on Roman Abramovich’s look, don’t think he was too happy.