Israel stuns Brazil at FIFA U-20 World Cup to keep its underdog hopes alive

Juan Melamed, JTA

(JTA) — Israel’s under-20 men’s team defeated Brazil 3-2 in the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup on Saturday, their most shocking win in a string of dramatic underdog victories at the tournament.

The player who scored the winning goal in extra time dedicated the win to three Israeli soldiers killed in an attack the previous morning.

The team, making its first-ever appearance at the under-20 World Cup, is now through to the semifinal round, in which they will face either the United States or Uruguay on Thursday.

Israel — facing a country known for its international soccer dominance that has won the under-2o World Cup five times — was behind much of the game and also missed multiple penalty kicks. In the 56th minute, Brazil scored first, but Israel responded with a goal a few minutes later. The game then went to extra time tied 1-1, and Brazil promptly scored within 30 seconds in the overtime period. Israel responded to tie about two minutes later.

Then, in the final moments of the first half of extra time, Dor Turgeman wove between a series of defenders in front of Brazil’s goal to knock in what would be the winning score.

Turgeman wore a wristband that referenced the violence on the Israel-Egypt border hours before the game, in which an Egyptian security officer shot and killed three Israeli soldiers.

“We went through a very difficult day with the news from Israel,” Turgeman said after the match. “I dedicate this victory to the families of the victims. We were very pained by what happened.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted about the shooting on Saturday, before a few hours later tweeting about the soccer victory, writing: “Our young team made history and brought huge pride to the State of Israel!”

Besides Turgeman’s game-winner, Israel’s other two goals were scored by two of the roster’s three Israeli-Arab players: Anan Khalaili and Hamza Shibli.

The match took place in Argentina’s San Juan province, a mountainous region about 700 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. The stadium was almost empty, with fewer than 2,000 fans in attendance, but that number included members of the Jewish community and Israeli tourists who cheered and waved large Israeli flags. The tournament was originally slated to be played in Indonesia but was moved to Argentina after Indonesia protested Israel’s inclusion in the competition.

The semifinals and finals will take place in La Plata, where Israel began the tournament with the support of thousands of Jewish fans.

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