Brilliant Brits keep Maccabiah football dream alive
Maccabiah Games Day 6
Open football: GB 2 Brazil 0
Team GB will play the USA in the quarter-finals of the Open football competition on Sunday morning after a brilliant performance saw them beat Brazil 2-0 at Ketzef Central.
A goal in each half from David Soutar and Paul Hakim capped an excellent display from Jonathan Kestenbaum's, undoubtedly their best of the competition to date.
Knowing that anything other than a win would end the team's medal hopes, GB's tactics were spot on on Friday morning. They were brave, cohesive and vastly improved from the game against France two days earlier.
With revenge on their minds - as Brazil eliminated them from the competition in 2005 - GB made their intentions clear from the very first whistle. Superbly led by captain Sam Sloma, who missed the Brazil game four years ago through suspension, GB were first to the ball, won every second ball, strung passes together and looked menacing going forward. In fact, they looked a completely different team to the one that under-performed against France on Tuesday.
Playing in blue, GB created the first opening inside two minutes. Hakim released Sloma whose stinging effort was superbly tipped over by the Brazilian keeper.
Knowing exactly what was at stake, it was clear for all to see that the GB boys were up for the game. The early signs were good as GB played a patient passing game. They really looked the part and for the main, it was hard to tell which team was Brazil as it was GB who was playing all the football.
Playing on the left side of central midfield, Sloma was at his inspirational best, getting forward at every opportunity and playing as though his life depended on it. He was on the end of another chance but screwed his shot wide from the edge of the box.
GB keeper Andrew Goldman was called into action for the first time on 35 minutes, diving on a low drive from outside the box.
Brazil appeared stunned by the GB passion, drive, commitment and tempo and they were made to look distinctly average.
Hakim came close to breaking the deadlock on 38 minutes. Sloma’s free-kick rebounded off the wall. Hakim picked up the loose ball and sent a vicious swerving effort goalwards only for the Brazil keeper to produce a stunning one-handed save.
From the resulting corner, Michael Warwick’s whipped in cross was glanced just wide by Guy Morris.
Warwick then spurned a good opportunity. Finding himself in the 18-yard box, is connected poorly and the scuffed his shot wide.
Goldman ensured the scoreline remained blank at half time with another alert block.
As the half time whistle sounded, the GB boys knew that they were 45 from going out, but there were shoots of hope that they could come up with the good in the second half.
Knowing it was win or bust, GB breathed a sigh of relief after a long clearance from the Brazil keeper was allowed to bounce midway in the GB home. A Brazilian player raced towards goal but his attempted lob drifted over.
GB kept knocking on the Brazil door and a pinpoint corner from Warwick was flicked on by Craig Ellis. The ball hit Soutar and flashed wide.
It remained 0-0 as Goldman produced another smart block with his legs in a rare Brazil attack.
Brazil came close again on 50 minutes when a free-kick curled the wrong side of the post.
With a clear height advantage, GB posed a threat at set pieces. They were finally rewarded on 52 minutes when a monster throw-on from the outstanding Guy Morris fell into the path of Warwick. He cut the ball back for the onrushing Soutar to smash into the net. The resulting celebrations were a sight to behold.
With the all-important lead, it was interesting to see if GB would try to stick or twist. Remembering how they let slip an advantage in the draw against Argentina, their vocal supporters, who included an opera singing mum, were delighted with the attacking intent as GB looked for a killer second.
The GB boys upped the tempo and continued to take the game to Brazil. Hakim was denied a goal by some brave last-ditch defending.
GB made a change with Matt Stock replacing new North West Neasden teammate James Gershfield, who had arguably his best game of the tournament.
Former Stoke City winger Warwick came close with a cross that nearly dropped in at the far post. That was his final action as he went down with cramp and was replaced by Neasden’s Daniel Stanton.
Goldman then produced his third good save but he could only look on the rebound whistled just over.
It was game over on 70 minutes as clever work down the right from supersub Stanton saw him clip over a delicious cross from the byline. The ball arced towards the far post where Hakim was on hand to nod home for his second goal of the competition.
There were scenes of derision as GB team knew they were just about there. The joy and relief was there for all to see.
Having gone into the game needing a draw to go through, Brazil had a man sent off in the last minute with GB trying to run down the clock.
The 10 men then hit the bar in the dying seconds but the scenes of joy at the final whistle sent a shiver down my spine.
After the game, head coach Les Reed said: “We defended well, were well organised and everyone did their job. Brazil were reputedly one of the best teams here but we played them at their own game and beat them. It was a big reward for our efforts.
“Guy Morris and Guy Helman were outstanding and Craig Ellis solid. but it’s been a real squad effort. Goalkeeper Danny Berliner hasn’t played yet but has been there to help Andy Goldman and done everything we’ve asked of him.”
Looking ahead to the quarter-finals, he said: “We’re now in the Premier League and will need to be top class. Team spirit is very good and I think that we’ve sent a message out as some team might think we were easy pickings. They might think otherwise now.
"We wanted to set up a marker right from the outset and have to make sure we repeat that in the next game. Now it’s all about our recovery.”
GB manager Jonathan Kestenbaum commented: “The extra coincidence of playing against Brazil like the last time - knowing that if they lost they would be out - gave them an incentive.
"At 0-0 were were out but at half time I looked at them and knew that they knew what to do.”
Delighted to qualify for the last eight, he said: “I have never seen a group like this with four superior teams together. At one point we all could’ve qualified. So to get out of the group of death and send Brazil home says something about the type of Jewish players we can produce in the UK.
“I was never in doubt that this group of boys can play football, and to play under those circumstances and to put in a performance like that in that heat is special. But we have only two days to prepare the team against a side that I regard as one of the best in the tournament.
“In the mean time we will enjoy ourselves, enjoy our Friday night dinner and offer a little prayer for Sunday.”
Reflecting on defeat against France, he said: “It was a very different game, a type of aggressive game that didn’t allow us to play and we didn’t acclimatise. But we didn’t lose against Argentina or Brazil – two of the best teams. But we’re not looking back. We are looking forward."
Reed added: “It was a frantic game on a bad pitch. They made it very difficult for us and we never settled but I couldn’t have asked for a better response today.”
GB take on the USA in the quarter-final at Neve Shaanan on Sunday at 9am.
GB: Andy Goldman 8, David Soutar 9, Guy Helman 8 (sub: Alex Levack 79), Guy Morris 8, Craig Ellis 8, Ben Lauffer 8 (sub: Danny Berg 88), Sam Sloma (capt) 9 (sub: Mitch Hahn 80), Michael Warwick 8 (sub: Daniel Stanton 67), James Gershfield 8 (sub: Matt Stock 62), Paul Hakim 9, Scott Shulton 8 (sub: Jonathan Kurrant 83). Subs not used: Danny Berliner, Michael Sacks
JC Match Stats
On target: 5
Cards: Yellow: 1, Red: 0
On target: 4
Cards: Yellow: 1, Red: 1
How the group finished:
Argentina Pl. 3, Pts. 4
GB Pl. 3, Pts. 4
Brazil Pl. 3, Pts. 3
France Pl. 3, Pts. 3
GB group results:
Game 1 - drew 1-1 vs Argentina – Hakim
Game 2 – lost 1-2 vs France – Kurrant
Game 3 – won 2-0 vs Brazil – Soutar, Hakim