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Israel kicks off U-20 World Cup with narrow loss

Colombia edges out the Blue and White.

Colombian midfielder Gustavo Puerta after scoring the game winner against Israel in La Plata, Argentina, May 21, 2023. Source: Twitter.
Colombian midfielder Gustavo Puerta after scoring the game winner against Israel in La Plata, Argentina, May 21, 2023. Source: Twitter.

Israel began its first-ever FIFA Under-20 World Cup soccer campaign on Sunday with a 2-1 loss to Colombia.

After a scoreless first half between the two Group C opponents at Estadio Único Diego Armando Maradona in the Argentinian city of La Plata, the crowd of 7,500 saw Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Dor Turgeman draw first blood with a penalty kick at the 57th minute.

But Colombia was awarded a penalty kick in the 74th minute and Óscar Cortés took advantage of his opportunity to tie things up.

Midfielder Gustavo Puerta, who plays for German club FC Nuremberg, scored the winner for Colombia in the 90th minute. Israel couldn’t respond despite the referee adding 10 minutes of injury time to the end of the match.

Israel team manager Ofir Haim said that he was disappointed with the result, adding that Colombia was an “excellent team with talented players who will be talked about around the world.”

Next up for Israel in the group stage is Senegal on Wednesday followed by Japan on Saturday. Japan beat Senegal 1-0 in an upset on Sunday.

There are six groups. The top two teams in each group and the four best third-placed teams will advance to the round of 16.

Argentina was not slated to host the event but 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.

Videos posted to social media from the Israel-Colombia match showed a tense scene in the stands with Israel supporters facing off against a group of Colombia fans displaying a large PLO flag and stadium security intervening.

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