Israel national football team

Shirt badge/Association crest
Nickname(s)הכחולים-לבנים (The Blue and Whites)
AssociationIsrael Football Association (IFA)
ConfederationUEFA (Europe) (1994–present)
AFC (Asia) (1954–74)
Head coachAndi Herzog
CaptainBibras Natkho
Most capsYossi Benayoun (102)[1]
Top scorerMordechai Spiegler (33)[2]
Home stadiumSammy Ofer Stadium
Teddy Stadium
Turner Stadium
Netanya Stadium (friendlies)
First colours
Second colours
FIFA ranking
Current 82 Increase 2 (14 June 2019)[3]
Highest15 (November 2008)
Lowest99 (January 2018)
Elo ranking
Current 60 Increase 15 (16 June 2019)[4]
Highest15 (August 2008)
Lowest80 (February 1968)
First international
Mandatory Palestine (Eretz Israel):
 Egypt 7–1 Mandatory Palestine Mandatory Palestine
(Cairo, Egypt; 16 March 1934)
United States USA Olympic Team 3–1 Israel Israel
(New York City, United States; 26 September 1948)
Biggest win
Israel Israel 9–0 Chinese Taipei 
(Wellington, New Zealand; 23 March 1988)
Biggest defeat
Mandatory Palestine (Eretz Israel):
 Egypt 7–1 Mandatory Palestine Mandatory Palestine
(Cairo, Egypt; 16 March 1934)
 Germany 7–1 Israel Israel
(Kaiserslautern, Germany; 12 February 2002)
World Cup
Appearances1 (first in 1970)
Best resultGroup stage, 1970
Asian Cup
Appearances4 (first in 1956)
Best resultChampions, 1964

The Israel national football team (Hebrew: נבחרת ישראל בכדורגל‎, Nivḥeret Yisra'el BeChaduregel) represents Israel in international football, and is governed by the Israel Football Association (IFA).

Israel's national team is the direct successor of the Mandatory Palestine national football team, which played five internationals in 1934–1940, and was managed by the Eretz Israel Football Association. Israel has competed in FIFA World Cup qualifiers in three different confederations, competing in the Asian Football Confederation before settling in Europe as a member of the Union of European Football Associations in 1994.

The Israeli side qualified for their only FIFA World Cup to date in 1970. Israel has also hosted and won the AFC Asian Cup in 1964, and was an finalist in 1956 and 1960.


Football has a long tradition in Israel. The game was originally introduced during the time of the Ottoman Empire. The Palestinian Football Association was formed in August 1928, and joined FIFA in June 1929, but at the time the association was made up of Arab clubs, Jewish clubs, and clubs representing British policemen and soldiers serving in the region during the British Mandate rule that spanned the period between World War One and the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. The British Mandate of Palestine national team made its debut against Egypt in 1934 FIFA World Cup qualification, losing 1–7 in Cairo. The team played five international matches, including a friendly match against Lebanon, until the British Mandate for Palestine was dissolved. During those five games, the national team fielded only Jewish players. Three anthems were played before each match: the British "God Save the King", the Jewish (and future Israeli) "Hatikvah" and the opposing team's anthem.[5]

In 1948 the team became, officially, the national team of Israel. The Israel national team's first match as an independent nation was on 26 September 1948, against the USA Olympic Team. The game was won by the USA 1–3, and in the 20th minute of the game Shmuel Ben-Dror scored the first goal after the creation of the State of Israel.

Asian Football Confederation membership

Nahum Stelmach kicking; 1959

Israel competed in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) between 1954 and 1974. Due to the Arab League boycott of Israel, several Muslim states refused to compete against Israel. The political situation culminated in Israel winning the 1958 World Cup qualifying stage for Asia and Africa without playing a single game, forcing FIFA to schedule a playoff between Israel and Wales to ensure the team did not qualify without playing at least one game (which Wales won).

Israel winning the 1964 AFC Asian Cup

Israel hosted and won the 1964 AFC Asian Cup. In 1968, Israel went to their first Olympic Games and lost to Bulgaria in the quarterfinals.

In 1969, Israel qualified for its first and only FIFA World Cup, via Asia/Oceania, and earned two points after draws with Sweden and finalist Italy, and a loss to Uruguay.

In 1976, Israel went to its second Olympic Games and lost in the quarterfinals again, this time against Brazil. In 1972 and 1977, it attempted World Cup qualification as part of Asia, which both times ended in failure.

Years in exile

In 1974, Israel was excluded from AFC competitions, as a result of a proposal by Kuwait which was adopted by a vote of 17 to 13 with 6 abstentions.[6] The vote coincided with the 1974 Asian Games, where the football competition was marred by the refusal of both North Korea[7] and Kuwait to play second-round matches against Israel.

During the 1980s, it played the majority of its matches against European teams, and competed in the European stage of qualification for the 1982 FIFA World Cup. For the next two tournaments, it entered Oceania's qualification stage. In 1989, Israel made it to the CONMEBOL–OFC play-offs for the 1990 World Cup to play against Colombia, which qualified from the South American group, but lost (1–0, 0–0).

European Football Confederation membership

Yossi Benayoun is Israel's most capped player with 102 caps

In 1991, Israeli clubs began participating in European club competitions, and Israel returned to the European leg of World Cup qualifying in 1992. In 1994, Israel received full UEFA membership, 20 years after it had left Asia. Within Europe, Israel has been a relatively minor nation, though with some successes, notably winning 3–2 in Paris against France in 1993, and 5–0 against Austria in 1999. That year, Israel made it to the playoffs of UEFA Euro 2000, but was beaten by Denmark.

Avram Grant has been the youngest national coach of Israel

Israel came close to advancing to the playoff stage in their 2006 World Cup qualifying group, finishing third, behind France, and tied on points with Switzerland, which also remained unbeaten in 10 matches after 4 wins and 6 draws. The Swiss had a better goal difference, though, and advanced to the qualification play-off. Coach Avram Grant announced his resignation on 26 October 2005. After the end of his contract, he was succeeded by Dror Kashtan.

In UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying, Israel came very close to qualifying to final tournament, but finished fourth in Group E, behind group winners Croatia, 1 point behind Russia who also with Croatia qualified direct, as well as equal on 23 points (one less than Russia) from 12 games with England; who failed to advance as did Israel. The 4–3 home loss to Croatia was the first loss after 13 consecutive official games and 9 home games without a loss.

In 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification, Israel again came in fourth, behind Switzerland, Greece, and Latvia. For the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, Kashtan was replaced as coach by Frenchman Luis Fernández, but to no avail, as Israel finished a distant third behind Greece and Croatia.

The continued presence of the Israeli Football Association in UEFA was a precedent cited by Australia to justify its transfer from the Oceania Football Confederation to the Asian Football Confederation.[8]

Ranking history

Source: [9]

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