March 20, 2007

Horse 736 - Three Lions vs Six Points for 3 Points??

This Saturday 24th March, England travel to Tel Aviv for their Group E clash against Israel in the Euro 2008 Football Championship. Since when was Israel part of Europe? Aren't they closer to Africa or Asia?

To understand why Israel is part of UEFA, one needs a short history of Israel. Before 1917 is was part of the Ottoman Empire and until 1948 with the creation of the modern state, was a British Protectorate (so in all honesty, Palestine's claims are bogus - but that's a whole other topic). In 1929 the IFA (Israelli Football Association) was admitted to FIFA and in 1956 when the requirements to join a confederation were established, they joined Asia.

Based on pressure from the Arabic states who refused to play against Israel in all competitions, Israel was voted out of the AFC in 1971 and left them without a path to the World Cup at all. FIFA eventually listened to reason and they played qualifiers through Oceania. In 1991 they were admitted to UEFA as a full member and have played in every tournament since.
Also perhaps related is that Israel is one of the members of the European Broadcasting Union and is thus elligible for the Eurovision Song Contest which they have won 3 times (it is also worth noting that Morocco entered in 1980 but has failed to qualify since).

England arrive under the same cloud as Israel, Russia & Macedonia. Only two teams escape the group phase and potentiall it could be 2 out of 5 countries. Only Estonia and the tiny Principality of Andorra have failed to register a point in this tournament to date. So this means that this clash is rather pointed. It's worth noting that Israelli press blasted their coach for losing 4-3 to Croatia, for if they didn't then they'd be top of the group. Steve McLaren is also under the axehead, for if England lose then potentially he could get the chop.

Fingernails at the ready... commence biting!

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