Fans hope Israeli defence will part like Red Sea

THEY will wait until sundown and the end of the Sabbath before kick-off in tonight’s game. With the weekend that’s in it, it’s hard to ignore the Biblical analogies.

Brian Kerr as our own Moses, leading us to the Promised Land of the World Cup in Germany? The Israeli defence parting like the Red Sea before the Duffer and Robbie Keane? These are the kind of blasphemous thoughts occupying the minds of Irish fans on the eve of a vital World Cup qualifier (and Easter). For that we ask forgiveness.

The game has attracted huge coverage both here and in Israel, where the home nation is treating it as evidence of growing national optimism, with their team reflecting a growth in their fortunes.

Strange then that in a country which has experienced so much real-life tragedy, Israeli international Yossi Benayoun described the possibility of a home loss in similarly dramatic terms. "Israelis have high expectations and everyone believes that we'll win," he said. "I want to win, too. But if we lose, you can't imagine what an unbelievable tragedy it will be for everyone in Israel."

There have been conflicting signals from the home camp. National newspaper Haaretz quoted one player as saying Israel will no longer look to Ireland as a model to emulate "after we beat them". Then the captain turns around and says we're better than France.

All this is of little concern to the Irish fans in Tel Aviv. According to reports, they have made short work of the beer supplies in the city's pubs, particularly Tel Aviv's Irish bars. The owners of some pubs were too busy to chat. "Bedlam," one barman said as he struggled to hold back the green tide.

At home, the internet message boards have us winning 2-0. It's all a little unnerving.

Former Israeli leader David Ben Gurion wasn't talking football when he once said: "In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles." Home fans will want to follow that logic tonight and let's face it 'tis the season.

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