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Israeli men’s soccer team loses to Denmark in World Cup qualifier in Tel Aviv

Danish players welcome hostile local crowd after playing in European stadiums emptied by pandemic restrictions

Israeli fans cheer before the World Cup 2022 group F qualifying soccer match between Israel and Denmark in Tel Aviv, March 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli fans cheer before the World Cup 2022 group F qualifying soccer match between Israel and Denmark in Tel Aviv, March 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Being booed by the home fans made Denmark forward Martin Braithwaite a happy man in Israel on Thursday.

Braithwaite scored the 13th-minute opener in a 2-0 win that began Denmark’s World Cup qualifying program in front of a rare crowd of several thousand fans in this pandemic-affected season.

After Israel’s world-leading vaccine rollout, the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv sounded noisier than the cavernous Camp Nou that is empty when Braithwaite plays for Barcelona.

“It was fantastic to feel that, even that fans were booing me,” Braithwaite said. “It sounds strange, but it makes me happy.”

Denmark had reason to be happy with an away win in Group F, where it is the only one of the six teams to have played at a World Cup since the 1990s. Israel’s only appearance was in 1970.

Jonas Wind sealed the win in the 67th minute with a close-range shot in a crowded goalmouth.

Israel has gradually rolled back restrictions on public events as its COVID-19 infection rates plummeted amid its world-leading vaccination campaign.

Sports fans who have been vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus were allowed back into stadiums earlier this month, with some restrictions remaining.

On Thursday Israel hit the milestone of fully vaccinating over half of its population.

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