THIRTY YEARS of hurt, never stopped me dreaming”, was a line from David Baddiel and Frank Skinner’s Three Lions song ahead of Euro 96, describing England’s so-called pain at failing to impress on the international football stage. While England are still waiting for any semblance of glory on the football field to rear its head again, at least they’re reaching major football tournaments. For Israel, it’s now 43 years of hurt – and that’s since they last qualified for a major tournament, never mind actually winning one! To top a group including Russia and Portugal was always a big ask, to finish second and earn a play-off place was possible. Had they have beaten Portugal in Tel Aviv, instead of drawing 3-3 when leading 3-1 with only minutes of the game left, it could have been a different story. But there was something depressingly inevitable about their 1-1 home draw against Azerbaijan, which was the final nail in the coffin of qualifying for next year’s tournament in Brazil. Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Russia in Moscow was irrelevant; all they have to play for now is pride – and third place – which in theory should get them a slightly easier draw for the 2016 European qualifiers. Right now, an appearance at a finals really is the stuff of dreams for Israeli football fans.
STILL GOING strong in the swimming pool is veteran Susan Halter, who continues to picks up medals around the world. The 85-year-old’s latest wins came in Eindhoven, Holland, where she was taking part in the 85-89 age group of the European Masters Swimming Championships. Competing in three backstroke events, she won silver in the 100m and bronze in both the 200 and 50m races. Something else to celebrate ahead of her 86th birthday next week.