1968 Olympic Games : Coin Flip Foils Israel

Less than two years after finding themselves on the wrong side of a coin toss at the quarterfinal stage of the 1968 Summer Games held in Mexico, the national football team of ISRAEL returned with a dozen members from that unlucky Olympic side to the very same country to compete for the very first time at a final tournament of a FIFA World Cup.

Who is to say for sure that ISRAEL, but for an unfavorable flip of a coin, would not have been good enough for at least the silver medal from the football tournament at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games hosted by Mexico City?

After all, Bulgaria did not defeat Israel on the playing field. And, it was the Israelis, in fact, who had all the momentum at the end after 20-year-old forward RACHAMIN FEIGENBAUM of FC Hapoel Tel Aviv scored a goal to equalize with less than two minutes remaining in the knockout quarterfinal match with the Bulgarians at Leon. But there was no mechanism to resolve drawn matches, no extra-time sessions or penalty kick shootouts, at that point in time.

And so all was left up to absolute chance with Bulgaria, who went on to the Final before falling to defending champion Hungary, the beneficiaries of the existing policy; Israel, on its first-ever appearance in the final tournament of an Olympic football tournament, were left with the short end of the stick.


The national team of Israel’s all-time leading goal-scorer and Olympic captain MORDECHAI SPIEGLER, the FC Maccabi Netanya striker born in the Soviet Union who later appeared for FC Paris as well as Paris St. Germain in France before spending a season with Brazil World Cup star Pele and the New York Cosmos in the old North American Soccer League, struck once in four matches at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City.

A strong showing in Mexico, nevertheless, for the outfit under the direction of German-born trainer EMMANUEL SCHEFFER. Israel, fortified by a hat trick from Feigenbaum and a brace from midifelder GIORA SPIEGEL, who later had five solid seasons in the French first division with Racing Strasbourg and Olympique Lyon, outscored Ghana 5-3 then bested El Salvador 3-1. Despite the 2-0 loss to the eventual-repeat gold medalists from Hungary, the Israelis finished second in Group C and, thus, claimed their spot in the quarterfinals.

The 1968 Summer Games also proved to be a positive experience for the national team of Israel; twelve players from the Olympic sqaud would return to Mexico two years later and form the backbone of the Israeli side competing against the planet’s very best footballers in the 1970 FIFA World Cup final tournament.


A player with touring U.S.S.R. side Dynamo Moscow runs with the ball against the reigning North American Soccer League champion New York Cosmos is pursued by Israel international midfielder REUVEN “Roby” YOUNG (8), who represented his country at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City and was his nation’s record cap-holder before enrolling at Adelphi University on Long Island following the 1969-70 season, during the exhibition match at Long Island’s Hofstra University on August 30, 1972.



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2 responses to “1968 Olympic Games : Coin Flip Foils Israel

  1. Colin Owen

    Actually, extra time WAS played in the Israel v Bulgaria match; the coin toss followed after neither team scored.


      Okay, thanks for the update … I do know that the Soviets and East Germans played extra time in the bronze medal match at the 1972 Munich Games before they decided to call it a draw and give both teams medals.