Israel coach Avraham Grant was in euphoria yeste·rday in the wake of the 1-1 draw with France Wednesday night. "Europe doesn't know what to make of us. We gave an excellent performance. We have a team and everyone knows it. We were better than France. Now everything is focused on Ireland," he said.
The Israel coach gave dozens of interviews to media outlets in France, Switzerland and Ireland and repeated again and again that he and his players were disappointed with the result after creating plenty of chances against the French.
Grant later tempered his enthusiasm by saying in an interview with the Sports Channel that Israel's chances of qualifying were still slim.
However he said the fact that at this stage in the competition people were talking about the team's chances showed just how far it had come.
Team captain Avi Nimni was also in a buoyant mood yesterday. "In the current situation in the group, the top four teams all have equal chances. Only results that will take us through to the World Cup or the playoffs will count," Nimni said.
Walid Badir, who scored Israel's goal against France, said the time had come to win in Ireland, where Israel plays its next game in June. "We have an excellent team and I want to reach the World Cup next year."
After Wednesday night's results, the situation in Group 4 is complex. With France and Israel tied on top of the group on 10 points and Ireland and Switzerland lying in ambush a point behind and with a game in hand, Grant's team will need to take points on the road against Ireland and Switzerland to stand a chance of achieving its World Cup dream.
Six points from those games will almost certainly assure Grant's team top place in the group - assuming, of course, that it wins home and away against the Faroe Islands. Four points should be enough for second place and a qualifying playoff berth. Two or three points and Israel will be dependent on its rivals' results. If Grant and his charges can manage only a point between Switzerland and Ireland, they will watch the 2006 World Cup on television.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now