Even as Israeli soccer’s hopes to qualify for the 2016 European Championship have faded with three consecutive losses, a FIFA draw has created a monumental challenge to reach the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
Israel was drawn into European Group G with 2010 champion Spain, four-time champion Italy, Albania, Macedonia and Liechtenstein. Qualifiers will be played from September 2016 to November 2017.
Only the group winner automatically qualifies for the World Cup. The second-place team will reach to a playoff against the second-place finisher from another group. It would be a huge surprise if Israel finished higher than third.
Meanwhile, Israel sits in a tie for third in Group B of European Championship qualifying with four games left. The top two teams qualify for the tournament in France; the third-place finisher advances to a playoff. Israel’s next game is Sept. 3 at home against Andorra.