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Israel beats Austria 5-2 in ‘amazing’ soccer World Cup qualifier

PM Bennett cheers ‘one of the greatest games we’ve had’; team to face off with group leaders Denmark on Tuesday

Israel's forward Eran Zahavi (L) shoots to score the third goal during the 2022 Qatar World Cup European Qualifiers football match between Israel and Austria at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa, on September 4, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Israel's forward Eran Zahavi (L) shoots to score the third goal during the 2022 Qatar World Cup European Qualifiers football match between Israel and Austria at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa, on September 4, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Israel defeated Austria 5-2 in a soccer World Cup qualifier on Saturday night.

The result leaves Israel second in the group after five games were played. It will face off, away from home, with Group F leader Denmark on Tuesday. Denmark has won all five of its qualifying games to date. The group winner qualifies directly for the World Cup finals in Qatar next year; the team in second place advances to a play-off round.

“It’s an amazing feeling, it was a great game for the whole team,” said forward Eran Zahavi, according to Channel 12. “We have an important game against Denmark on Tuesday. It’s hard to come down to earth after a match like that, it was a great game.”

Zahavi scored twice, three days after his hat trick against the Faroe Islands. Austria fought back to 3-2 from 3-0 down before Shon Weissman and Zahavi stretched Israel’s lead again.

The outcome was cheered by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who said it was “not only a tremendous achievement but also one of the greatest games we’ve had.”

Culture Minister Chili Tropper praised the team for an “excellent” match. “Go, go Israel,” he said.

On Wednesday night, a Zahavi hat trick helped Israel brush past the Faroe Islands 4-0. Zehavi, who plays club soccer for the Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, opened the scoring in the 12th minute and grabbed a second goal just before halftime. He wrapped up his hat trick in the second minute of injury time.

Israel’s players celebrate their fifth goal during the 2022 Qatar World Cup European Qualifiers soccer match between Israel and Austria at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa, on September 4, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Israel has not qualified for the World Cup since Mexico in 1970.

The Austria win strengthened Israel’s hold on second place in Group F, with 10 points from five games, behind Denmark on 15, and ahead of Scotland (8), Austria (7), Faroe Islands (1) and Moldova (1). It still has to play Denmark, Scotland and Austria away from home.

AP contributed to this report.

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