Are Israelis World Cup worthy?

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Volumes of alleged corruption, migrant-worker abuses and terrorism ties give Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022 the world-class black eye it deserves.

Which leaves me rooting like heck for Israel, whose Euro 2020 qualification quest (that tournament will be completed next summer) continues Thursday against Scotland at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

The Blue and Whites finagled a draw with Scotland a month ago inside Hampden in Nations League competition when Moanes Dabour fed fellow striker Eran Zahavi for the equalizer.

Israel must begin a run of cohesion, and have some fortune, to reach Qatar, to apply maximum discomfort to its supreme committee and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, its ruling emir.

By simply filing into one of those seven shiny new desert sporting palaces, or the one being refurbished, in November 2022, keeper Ofir Marciano, Zahavi, Dabour and the rest of the Israeli national side should shake the sheikh.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) severed diplomatic ties with Doha, the Qatari capital, over its support of terrorism and links to Iran.

Last month’s Abraham Accords, a full diplomatic relations and normalization agreement brokered by the Trump Administration between Israel and the UAE, included extended security measures against certain threats, including Iran and its proxies.

That enhanced an advanced ethos the UAE began cultivating in 2008, when Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi, oversaw Abu Dhabi United Group’s purchase of Manchester City.

In their 2018 book “The Club,” on the English Premier League, authors Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg documented the UAE’s desire not to be viewed “as an irresponsible nouveau riche petrostate with more money than sense.”

Qatar, a petrostate that purloined the World Cup and bought Paris Saint-Germain in 2013, operates differently. Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and Oman supported the Abraham efforts, which were criticized by Qatar, Turkey and Iran.

Thirteen European berths for Qatar 2022 will start being contested in March. Israel has played in only one World Cup, Mexico 1970, where it lost to Uruguay, tying Sweden — the great Mordechai “Motaleh” Spiegler knotted the Swedes — and Italy.

Israeli keeper Marciano (31 today) is quite familiar with Scotland, having played for Hibernian since 2016. Zahavi, 33, scored 76 times in three seasons in China through 2019. That club recently peddled him to PSV Eindhoven.

Dabour, 28, plays for Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. Manor Solomon, a 21-year-old attacking midfielder for élite Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, must support those two for Israel to thrive. And don’t sleep on Elay Elmkies, a 20-year-old midfielder for Den Haag in Holland.

Scotland backstop David Marshall yielded eight goals in his first three matches, all defeats, for Derby County in England’s second division, but he goose-egged Norwich on Saturday. Midfield threat John McGinn, who scored Sunday in Aston Villa’s thumping of Liverpool, has been a ghost twice against Israel.

Regarding Qatar, FIFA, as is its custom, counts its World Cup cash and looks the other way. Two years before Argentina 1978, a military coup handed that country’s reins to butchers. Genocide would be documented.

In his 2006 book “Foul!” author Andrew Jennings spotlighted widespread irregularities under former FIFA chiefs Joao Havelange and Sepp Blatter. Jennings, who drew damning corollaries, referred to “FIFA thieves.”

FIFA let that show go on in Argentina. Qatar goes on.

The only sweeter scenario than Israel making Qatar 2022 would be it playing, and defeating, Qatar — host nations get automatic bids on its own oily artificial soil.

Sunday

Belgium +172 at England: Three Nations League matches, but we’ll refer to Euro qualifiers for salient data. Belgium — our No. 1 national squad — allowed just two goals in 10 Euro matches, and keeper Thibaut Courtois yielded just one in seven games.

England has tallied only three goals in its past five against the Belgians. As usual, there’s value in fading the Three Lions. BELGIUM

Denmark -.5 -104 at Iceland: Iceland is 0-18-3 lifetime against the Danes, with a single goal in the previous six meetings, two over the past 11. Denmark had an average Euro goals-plus-assists team ratio of 4, more than doubling Iceland. DENMARK

Netherlands -.5 -142 at Bosnia & Herzegovina: This home side allowed more than five shots on goal in each of its 10 Euro matches, holes that will be exposed by Memphis Depay, Georginio Wijnaldum and Quincy Promes. The Dutch allowed a paltry nine shots on target in eight qualifiers. NETHERLANDS

Last week: 1-1

Season: 7-8-1

 

About the Author

Rob Miech

Veteran sportswriter Rob Miech covers soccer and does features for Gaming Today. He has written about college hoops for the Las Vegas Sun, CBS SportsLine and the Pasadena Star-News. He is the author of four books, including Sports Betting for Winners.

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