SAN JUAN: Israel produced one of the biggest wins in its football history today, stunning Brazil 3-2 in extra-time to qualify for the semifinals of the Under-20 World Cup.
A tightly contested encounter saw Israel come back from behind twice before grabbing the shock victory through Dor Turgeman’s brilliant solo strike.
The Israelis will face either Uruguay or the US in the semifinals.
After a scoreless first half at the Bicentenario stadium, Brazil, five-time winners of the tournament, broke through in the 56th minute on Marcos Leonardo’s superbly-taken, first-time left-foot shot.
Anan Khalaili brought Israel level, rising at the back post to angle home a header from a pinpoint El Yam Kancepolski cross in the 60th minute, delighting a largely pro-Israel crowd in the stands.
But Israel’s hopes dimmed just 20 seconds into extra-time, when Andrey Santos set up Matheus Nascimento to restore Brazil’s lead.
Just two minutes later, however, Hamza Shibli equalised, tapping in a low ball from Ilay Feingold at the back post to make it 2-2.
The decisive goal came, near the end of the first period of extra-time, when Turgeman collected the ball on the edge of the box, jinked cleverly past two defenders and then fired past Kaique Pereira.
Ilay Madmon and Ahmad Ibrahim would both miss penalties for Israel in the second period of extra-time, but Ofir Haim’s side were able to hold on.
“When I was a kid, I used to play a lot in the neighbourhood, outside my house and I used to always try to pull off things like that, so I think the goal came from there,” said Turgeman.
“I’m really thrilled and proud of it. I’m so emotional. I’m very happy that I’ve made all Israelis happy. This is huge for my country. It’s unbelievable”.
Brazil were fancied by many pundits to continue their excellent record in this tournament and Tay Abed said they knew the odds were stacked against them.
“We knew before the game that nobody was giving us a chance, But we believed in ourselves. Brazil are a fantastic team, one of the best in this tournament. But we went out to play with our hearts, play with passion,” he said.
Abded said the Israeli team now believed they could go all the way.
“We’re taking it step by step,” said Abed.
“We’ve now reached the semifinals. If we keep playing like this, with the passion and the heart, we can do it,” he said.
Israel are the first debutants to reach the semifinals of a Fifa Under-20 World Cup since Senegal in 2015.
The senior Israeli national team has only once qualified for the World Cup finals, going out in the group stage in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.