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Israel tops Korea to secure third place at Under-20 World Cup

The finish is by far Israel's best-ever at any major soccer tournament.

The Israeli national youth soccer team (in blue) during a European U21 championship playoff vs Ireland at Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa, Sept. 27, 2022. Credit: TPS.
The Israeli national youth soccer team (in blue) during a European U21 championship playoff vs Ireland at Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa, Sept. 27, 2022. Credit: TPS.

Israel capped an historic run at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Argentina on Sunday by beating South Korea 3-1 to finish the tournament in third place.

Midfielder Ran Binyamin found the back of the net to open the scoring for Israel in the 20th minute, but South Korea equalized just four minutes later on a penalty from Seung-Won Lee.

The score stayed tied until the 70th minute when Omer Senior struck, and Anan Khalaili secured the win with a third goal with four minutes to play.

“A huge achievement! We are all proud of you,” tweeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel stunned the soccer world repeatedly throughout the tournament, especially with its upset of powerhouse Brazil in the quarterfinals.

In that game, Israel twice came back from a goal down with equalizers in the second half and again at the beginning of the 30-minute extra time period played after regular time ended in a 1-1 tie.

Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Dor Turgeman then struck at the very end of the first half of extra time to send the Blue and White to unchartered waters.

After losing its first Under-20 game 2-1 to Colombia on May 21 and then drawing 1-1 with Senegal, Israel needed to beat Japan to move into the round of 16.

Israel made soccer history with a late rally with a man down to beat Japan 2-1. The win was Israel’s first-ever at any FIFA World Cup, having tied two games and lost the other in its only previous appearance in any such competition, the adult World Cup event in Mexico in 1970.

Israel reached the quarterfinals when Maccabi Haifa forward Khalaili fired home a goal in the 97th minute to propel Israel to a 1-0 victory in the round of 16 over Uzbekistan.

Uruguay, which defeated Israel in the semi-finals on Friday, bested Italy 1-0 on Sunday to take the crown.

Argentina had not been slated to host the tournament. Still, it was moved there after FIFA took it away from Indonesia following objections by the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country to Israel’s participation.

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