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August 2, 2011 8:25 pm

World Cup 2014 Qualifiers, Tough Road for Israel

avatar by Levi Epstein

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Many are still in doubt as to Israel's chances of reaching FIFA 2014.

For Israel, the quest for the 2014 FIFA World Cup began on Saturday night August 1st with the drawing of the World Cup qualifying groups, which matched them up against a number of strong European contenders. To reach the tournament in Brazil, Israel will have to take on top-seeded teams that include qualifying favorites, Northern Ireland, Portugal and Russia, opponents who will all prove to be quite challenging.

Israel’s national team coach, Luis Fernandez, who was in Rio de Janeiro for the Group Draw, did not wish to comment directly on the matter. Instead, he opted to discuss Israel’s 2012 Euro Cup Qualifiers.

“The only thing that’s really important now is our upcoming game against Greece, which will hopefully keep us in the race for Euro 2012,” said Fernandez. “We’ll have enough time to think of these games when the time comes, but right now my only hope is that the stadium will be full of noisy fans for the game against Greece.”

Throughout the history of Soccer in Israel—which dates as far back as the pre-independence days, with the Eretz Yisrael FA Club—the national team has only managed to qualify for the sport’s largest and most celebrated tournament once. That was back in 1970 when Israel made its first and only world cup appearance, with two ties and one loss in the Group Stage.

The result of this year’s 2014 draw has left many in doubt as to Israel’s chances of reaching the big stage. Yet when asked about their future matches with the Israeli team, Russian national coach Dick Advocaat and Northern Ireland coach Nigel Worthington had nothing but praise to offer their qualifying rivals. “I actually preferred not to receive Israel, which is a strong team, especially at home,” said Advocaat. Worthington likewise exclaimed, “Israel. That is one difficult nut to crack.”

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