Israel's World Cup dream shattered

By Danny Caro, September 6, 2009

Israel manager Dror Kashtan conceded defeat in his attempt to steer Israel to next year's World Cup finals after they were beaten by Latvia in Ramat Gan on Saturday night.

A second half header from Kaspars Gorkss left Israel's hopes in tatters. They remain fourth in Group 2 with three games left, starting with Luxembourg at home on Wednesday. Qualification is still possible, but their fate is out of their hands.

The decisive strike maintained Latvia's qualification hopes on a night when group leaders Greece were beaten by Switzerland.

Israel boss Dror Kashtan said: "This match was a massive disappointment.I expected to see us play much better. We are out of the race to reach the World Cup."

No one believed we would be in such a position at this stage of the campaign and neither did I."
Israel had started the stronger side, with Elyaniv Barda a constant menace.

Visiting keeper Andris Vanins was by far the busier keeper, saving efforts from Barda and Omar Golan.

Israel continued to push for an opener with defender Yuval Shpungin heading over from a corner in the 26th minute.

Veteran Latvia striker Maris Verpakovskis then should have opened the scoring when he was one-on-one with Awat, but sent his effort wide.

Israel continued to threaten with Golan striking the post with an overhead kick after Yaniv Katan's clever pass.

The match took a twist on 59 minutes when Cauna's corner from the left found Gorkss and the Queens Park Rangers defender headed the ball into the net.

Five minutes later Latvia captain Vitalijs Astafjevs, who was making his 155th international appearance, hit the crossbar with powerful shot from distance.

Andrejs Rubins could have double Latvia lead in 72nd minute, but missed the target after a pass from Verpakovskis.

Israel's frustrations boiled over at the final whistle. Captain Yossi Benayoun, who was substituted after 66 minutes, threw his hands up in disgust and was seen shouting at Kashtan and then restrained by second string 'keeper Nir Davidovitch.

Kashtan said: "Now we need to try and end the campaign in the best way possible. I believed in the national team, but this is part of the game. We haven't reached a World Cup in 40 years and we will have to wait a little longer."

Latvia host the Swiss in Riga on Wednesday and with just three points separating them know that victory could send them to the top of the group.

Last updated: 10:31am, September 7 2009