Israel were left dreaming of what might have been in Basle on Wednesday night as their World Cup dream came to a gallant end.
They held group winners Switzerland to a goalless draw in a match they contested with 10 men for the last 30 minutes following the dismissal of Avihai Yadin.
In what is expected to be Dror Kashtan’s last match as manager, the visitors started the game knowing that only victory together with Greece failing to beat Luxembourg at home would keep alive their hopes of clinching a playoff spot. As things panned out, Greece won 2-1 although Latvia pipped Israel to third spot after beating Moldova 3-2.
After soaking up some early pressure from the hosts, Israel pushed forward with captain Yossi Benayoun instigating an attack that saw Biram Kiyal send an effort flashing inches wide of the post.
A goal-saving tackle from Portsmouth’s Tal ben Haim denied Gokhan Inler who was through on goal before Tranquillo Barnetta fired wide.
Israel’s hopes suffered a further blow 15 minutes into the second half as Yadin received his second yellow card, for hauling down the industrious Inler.
With a one-man advantage, Switzerland dominated possession for the last half hour but Dudu Awat in the Israel goal was rarely threatened.
The result left Israel dreaming of what might have been as they reflect another failure in a group that many believed they should have got out of.
Israel striker Elyaniv Barda summed up the campaign. “We saw that none of the teams in our group sparkled - not Greece, not Switzerland.
“One can say we are disappointed, that we’re distraught. But after the game yesterday and the outcome in Greece, one can also say that we are suckers.”
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group 2 table
Switzerland Pl. 10, W. 6, D. 3, L. 1, F. 18, A. 8, Pts. 21
Greece Pl. 10, W. 6, D. 2, L. 2, F. 20, A. 10, Pts. 20
Latvia Pl. 10, W. 5, D. 2, L. 3, F. 18, A. 15, Pts. 17
Israel Pl. 10, W. 4, D. 4, L. 2, F. 20, A. 10, Pts. 16
Luxembourg Pl. 10, W. 1, D. 2, L. 7, F. 4, A. 25, Pts. 5
Moldova Pl. 10, W. 0, D. 3, L. 7, F. 6, A. 18, Pts. 3
Match 1 - Switzerland (h) – 2-2
Match 2 – Moldova (a) – 2-1 (won)
Match 3 – Luxembourg – (a) 3-1 (won)
Match 4 – Latvia – (a) 1-1
Match 5 – Greece (h) 1-1
Match 6 – Greece (a) – 1-2 lost
Match 7 – Latvia (h) – 0-1 lost
Match 8 – Luxembourg (h) – 7-0 won
Match 9 –Moldova (h) – 3-1 won
Match 10 - Switzerland (a) – 0-0