Politics of Israel and Iran ensnare 1st World Cup in Mideast
It’s been a whirlwind month for the men’s soccer game in men’s soccer. In a matter of days the world’s attention has been drawn to events in Israel, where for the second time in the last three years the U.S. Men’s National Team is engaged in an intense competition with a team from its neighbor to the north. On the men’s side, the U.S. and Mexico are vying for the top spot in the World Cup. On the women’s side, the U.S. and Japan are also in contention. Yet on the women’s side, Israel has played host to a very different form of competition, one that has been as much about Israeli women’s football as it is Israeli soccer at all.
In the women’s game, as in the men’s, Israel has become a major player on the international stage through the participation of its women’s team. Unlike some other nations where women’s teams are still in their adolescence, Israel’s team has matured rapidly and in 2011 was one of the favorites on the international stage for its performances on both the men’s and women’s sides of soccer. The 2011 Women’s World Cup, however, was different.
On Tuesday Israel’s team lost 1-0 to its first opponent, Cameroon’s team. The scoreline was not a surprise. Though Israel had qualified for the 2011 Women’s World Cup with a game to spare, their opponents surprised Israelis by finishing with a 3-1 record and a goal differential of +19. The win, however, was disappointing and the disappointment, and Israel’s reaction to it, set the tone for the season, to say, everything is different.
Israel’s team in the World Cup was in search of a more dynamic style of play than the team had developed under coach Ronny Carpel, who had not taken the team deep into the tournament in the previous two editions. This new style required a change in personnel as well as new playmakers, a new set of tactics and a new culture. Israel’s new look was manifested in the decision last summer to start with a defensive approach and focus on defense. Despite the change in style, the team still has many questions. Carpel will continue to play the system that is currently dominant in Israeli soccer, perhaps with the help of a second midfield pivot and a second forward