Ramat Gan was the venue for a very exciting Group F match between The Blues and Whites of Israel, currently ranked 74th in the world*, and the Seleção Portuguesa, currently ranked 7th in the world*. The match was scheduled to be played on a sunny afternoon at 14:45 local time, creating a beautiful atmosphere for the fans with blue and white flags.
With all the talent from Portugal being recognized all over the world, a Portugal win was very much expected, and Paulo Bento was under pressure to ensure that this would happen. Israel, in the same manner, were hoping to prove themselves to their fans and to the whole world, as they prepared to face one of the biggest footballing giants in the world. The Israeli had a lot of faith in their captain and Chelsea winger, Yossi Benayoun, but all eyes would on Real Madrid winger and Ballon D’Or 2012 nominee, Cristiano Ronaldo as the two sides were preparing to meet.
The game started as Portugal would have wanted, when inside just 2 minutes, Bruno Alves headed the ball into the net from a Fabio Coentrao header. The Portuguese looked to be on their way to scoring so many goals at this point, but the Israeli had other plans.
There was no more time to waste by the home side, as their back four intensified, hoping to prevent any more early goals. 13 minutes in, Israel had their first attempt, but Ben Basat missed the target. Portugal were now starting to discover what their opponents were made of; the game becoming more settled now.
Miguel Veloso missed the target a few minutes before Hemed got an equalizer in the 24th minute for his country, resulting into Miguel wishing he’d done the job better. The game became fairly balanced for the next 10- 15 minutes, although the Seleção were still in control.
Just like his fellow countryman Miguel Veloso, Helder Postiga had a chance to put his side ahead once again, but missed the target only for Israel to put in a second one a few minutes later. Eden Ben Basat of Toulouse in the French Ligue 1 was able to get the ball into the net, assisted by the first goalscorer and Mallorca striker, Tomer Hemed. For the first time in this match, the home side were ahead and very much confident in front of their home fans. Postiga was once again provided a chance to level things before half-time, but missed the target.
The second half started even faster for the Seleção, who were very eager to get back ahead, with their first second-half chance (from a corner) coming after just one minute, but from which resulted nothing. Israel were also looking much stronger as Ben Basat had a chance to make it a brace, but only just missing the target.
Helder Postiga continued to miss the target, and the Zaragoza center-forward kept getting frustrated as his side made a double-substitution (Carlos Martins and Vieirinha on for Miguel Veloso and Varela respectively). The Benfica midfielder had his first attempt just a few seconds after his introduction but missed the target. The Blue/Whites brought on Maccabi Tel Aviv Striker, Eliran Atar on for a happy Hemed, who got a standing ovation from the home crowd. The Seleção was still desperately looking for an equalizer.
Bad turned to worse for the Seleção in the 70th minute when their hosts added one more to their tally through Celtic left-back, Rami Gershon. 3-1 and it seemed that it was all over for the Portuguese giants! Failing to wake up quickly from their celebration, Israel got a little bit distracted and allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to turn things around and create a good chance for Postiga to score a second goal and bring them back. Postiga made no mistakes as he put the ball past Mallorca’s main man.
Unfortunately, Israel’s little mistake cost them one more just 20 minutes later, before which both teams had had a few attempts and Yossi Benayoun had been introduced for Ben Basat. Coentrao was the man behind this last-minute goal for his side, having taken advantage of a poor attempt by the Israel back four to clear the ball.
Israel, despite having been very well-placed, ended up being the architects of their own downfall. The game ended Israel 3-3 Portugal, meaning Israel would still be above Portugal on the Group F table on goal difference. Russia might now be able to pull away from the two sides with a game yet to play.
Statistic-wise, Israel had a total of 5 attempts (3 on target; 2 off target), while Portugal had 15 (5 on target; 10 off target), meaning that Aouate was the busier goalkeeper, having had to make 3 saves from the 5 Portugal attempts that were on target. France’s Stéphane Lannoy, the referee for this match, issued a total of 6 yellow cards (3-a-side) for this match. He was assisted by fellow Frenchmen Frédéric Cano, Michael Annonier, and Ruddy Buquet as the fourth official. No players were sent off during this match. This match was played at the Itztadion Ramat Gan in Ramat Gan, Israel.
Eli Guttman and Paulo Bento lined up the following squads:
Israel Starting XI
Dudu Aouate (c), Yuval Shpungin, Tai Ben Haim, Maor Melikson, Bebras Natcho, Beram Kayal, Eden Ben Basat, Tomer Hemed, Sheran Yeni, Rami Gershon, Eytan Tibi
Subs: Daniel Amos, Ariel Harush, Gal Alberman, Lior Refaelov, Etey Shechter, Dekel Keinan, Eran Zahavi, Yossi Benayoun, Eliran Atar, Avraham Rikan, Maharan Radi, and Gal Shish
Portugal Starting XI
Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Miguel Veloso, Fabio Coentrao, Cristiano Ronaldo (c), Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles, Silvestre Varela, Joao Pereira, Helder Postiga
Subs: Eduardo, Beto, Custodio, Hugo Almeida, Danny, Paulo Machado, Sereno, Luiz Neto, Silvio, Vieirinha, Pizzi, and Carlos Martins
Final Score: Israel 3-3 Portugal
Bruno Alves 2′ (POR), Hemed 24′ (ISR), Ben Basat 40′ (ISR), Gershon 70′ (ISR), Postiga 72′ (POR), Coentrao 90+3′ (POR)
*FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking
Written by Ange Marline