In a landmark achievement for Israeli soccer, the national under-20 team upset powerhouse Brazil 3-2 in extra time in the World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday, advancing to the semifinals and continuing the youth team’s unprecedented run.
In a back-and-forth game, Israel twice quickly equalized after conceding goals, once in the second half and again at the beginning of the 30-minute extra time period after regulation time ended in a draw.
At the tail end of the extra time’s first half, forward Dor Turgeman maneuvered past several defenders near the goal and blasted the ball into the net, stunning Brazil and bringing the Jewish state to the event’s semifinal. Israel went on to miss two penalty kicks in the final minutes of the game.
This is the first time the Israeli squad had ever qualified for the global under-20 competition, and the victory over soccer powerhouse Brazil marked perhaps Israeli soccer’s biggest-ever achievement.
“This is for the entire nation,” said coach Ofir Haim after the win. “I want to unite this amazing, wonderful country. We have players who believe in themselves, we have the capabilities. We want to reach the final.”
In its semifinal, to be played on Thursday, Israel will face the winner of Sunday’s quarterfinal clash between Uruguay and the US.
מותחן סן חואן – בסיום משחק שנכנס להארכה וכלל 2 חזרות מפיגור, מהפך ו-2 פנדלים מוחמצים רצופים נבחרת ישראל מנצחת את ברזיל 3-2 ועולה לחצי גמר המונדיאליטו ???????? pic.twitter.com/F85iDNDsoQ
— כאן (@kann) June 3, 2023
Brazil — whose adult national team is the most successful in World Cup history, with five titles — had been the overwhelming favorite and had been dominant throughout most of the tournament leading up to Saturday’s match at San Juan del Bicentenario Stadium in Argentina.
But after the Brazilian squad initially pressured Israel, it was the blue and whites who dominated during most of the first half, though no goals were scored.
Brazil was the first on the scoreboard when striker Marcos Leonardo netted from inside the penalty area in the 56th minute.
But Israel responded four minutes later, with forward Anan Khalaili jumping high to sink a header.
The next goal came barely 30 seconds after extra time began, with Brazilian players making several quick passes near Israel’s goal, culminating in a kick by Matheus Nascimento that edged passed Israel’s goalkeeper, making the score 2-1.
Israeli broadcasters believed the team’s run was likely over as several players were showing fatigue, but the squad evened the score again just two minutes later, with midfielder Hamza Shibli managing to prod the ball in from close range after an assist from defender Ilay Feingold.
THE RESPONSE ????
Israel U-20s Hamza Shibli equalizes the match! ???????? pic.twitter.com/2VCBOPCgTv
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 3, 2023
With pressure peaking, Turgeman made the play that sealed the match three minutes into the stoppage time of the extra time’s first half, taking control of a rebound in the penalty area and dribbling past two defenders before rocketing the ball past Brazil’s goalkeeper, Kaique Pereira Azarias.
Israel then missed several big chances to extend its lead. A handball by a Brazil defender gave the team a penalty kick in the 114th minute, but the goalkeeper stopped midfielder Ilai Madmoun’s attempt only to then immediately commit a foul in the aftermath that gave Israel another penalty, which forward Ahmad Salman missed.
Brazil failed to score again, with the final whistle kicking off major celebrations on the pitch and back home.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted on Twitter, writing that “our youth team has made history and brought huge pride to the State of Israel.”
President Isaac Herzog also hailed the “amazing game” and “huge victory,” telling the players: “You are bringing us much respect and pleasure these days with terrific team play and real sportsmanlike battle spirit.”
After the win, Turgeman dedicated the victory to three soldiers who were killed in an attack by an Egyptian policeman on the southern border earlier in the day.
“We went through a very difficult day with the news from Israel,” Turgeman said. “I dedicate this victory to the families of the victims. We were very pained by what happened.”
In the third and final group-stage match last week, the youth squad notched Israel’s first-ever win in any FIFA soccer World Cup, with a wild, come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Japan in stoppage time, finishing second in Group C and qualifying.
After that, the team continued its improbable run last Tuesday with a 97th-minute goal to upend Uzbekistan 1-0 and reach the quarterfinal.
This year marks Israel’s first-ever trip to the U-20 World Cup. Its lone trip to the main World Cup in 1970 ended without a single win.
The tournament is being held in Argentina after Indonesia was stripped of its spot as host and participant amid protests in the Muslim-majority country against hosting the Israeli team.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.