Israel scored a shocking upset on Saturday night by beating powerhouse Brazil at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Argentina.
The victory punched the Jewish state’s ticket to Thursday’s semifinal match, where it will play the winner of Sunday’s match between the United States and Uruguay.
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.
“This is for the entire nation,” said coach Ofir Haim. “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.”
After the win, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Haim and Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar to congratulate them on the “historic” and “proud” achievement.
“On a day of sadness, you brought joy and pride on a level that is difficult to describe. I watched every minute of the game Israeli soccer has never had a day like this,” said Netanyahu.
He was referring to the terrorist attack along the Egyptian border earlier on Saturday that killed three IDF soldiers.
Israel made soccer history last week 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 Anan Khalaili fired home a goal in the 97th minute to propel Israel to a 1-0 victory in the round of 16 over Uzbekistan on Tuesday.
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.