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Israel Loses to Latvia at Home 1-0; Ends World Cup Hope

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Israel Loses to Latvia at Home 1-0; Ends World Cup Hope
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Aizeh Shtuyot!!

That's Hebrew for "What Nonsense!"

This is what's running through the minds of every fan of the Israeli National Soccer team.

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa marks the 40th year since Israel made its first and so far only World Cup (1970 Mexico).

But Israel will have to wait a little longer for their next opportunity.

In Saturday night's game, a half-filled Ramat Gan Stadium watched Israel come out with a furious pace, and had a few chances to score in the first 15 minutes, including one shot from forward Elyaniv Barda that was saved off the line by a Latvian defender.

Israel was playing without their star defender Tal Ben-Haim due to accumulation of yellow cards picked up in the previous match against Greece, so Avi Strool was called in for cover.

Also, star forward Roberto Colautti wasn't called into the squad, a very questionable choice by Israel manager Dror Kashtan.

After a solid first half, the Israeli attack didn't pester the Latvian defense, and it was a stalemate all the way until the 60th minute, when defender Kaspars Gorkss met a cross from winger Aleksandrs Cauna and headed the ball into the back of the net.

To make matters worse for Israel, Kashtan made the biggest head scratcher of all, taking out Yossi Benayoun, the captain and certainly the best attacking player for Israel, in the 67th minute. This was just minutes after young prodigy forward Ben Sahar finally came into the game.

The Latvians kept a tight defense throughout the rest of the game, and they were able to secure the three points in a truly historic win for them, which also pushes them into a tie with Greece in second place in group two, with 13 points.

And for Israel, its another round of disappointment.

After being given a relatively easy group, with only Greece and the Swiss seen as main challengers, most pundits and Israelis alike believed this would be the year that they made it.

But it looks like the Israelis will be wandering the World Cup desert for a little while longer.

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