As soon as everyone was sitting in their seats and had buckled up their safety belts for the return flight from Riga to Tel Aviv, Israel Football Association (IFA) chairman Avi Luzon and national team coach Dror Kashtan, who were sitting together in the front row, began calculating what Israel needs to do in order to qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.
Minutes after take-off, Luzon and Kashtan pulled down the table in front of them, found a piece of scrap paper and started their calculations. While most of the players in the seats behind them were unable to sleep, Kashtan and Luzon were looking for the formula that would ensure Israel's qualification.
Even after the disappointing draw against Latvia, there was still a great deal of optimism that South Africa is still on the cards - perhaps because of the Swiss victory in Greece. According to the Luzon-Kashtan plan, Israel, which already has eight points in the bag, will win its four remaining home fixtures, including victory over Greece, and manage draws in the away games against Greece and Switzerland, ending up with a total of 22 points.
Greece, which currently has nine points, is expected to win all three of its games against the group's weaker teams (Luxembourg, Latvia and Moldova), will lose in Israel and end the group with a home draw against Israel and an away draw against Switzerland - finishing with 20 points.
In this optimistic scenario, the last game of the campaign, between Israel and Switzerland, will effectively be a playoff, with the winner qualifying for South Africa. The Swiss, who currently have seven points, should win their four clashes against the three group minnows, draw at home against Greece and need just a draw against Israel in the last game to qualify automatically for the World Cup.
According to Luzon and Kashtan's calculations, defeat for Israel against Switzerland would mean that the Swiss travel to South Africa and Israel will need to go through the playoffs.
After finalizing their plan, Kashtan and Luzon got up and made their way to the middle of the plane. With a smile on his face, the IFA chairman told anyone who would listen: "Don't worry - I have the plans for Israel's qualification. You can be optimistic, we'll make it to South Africa without having to go through the playoffs."
On hearing the plan, assistant coach Moshe Sinai at first called it "realistic," but, when he realized that it depended on Israel beating Greece at home, and reminded Luzon that Israel didn't even manage to beat Luxembourg in the first encounter between them.
"If you're frightened," Luzon replied angrily, "you can have my seat in the VIP box and I will sit next to Dror and run the game. I promise you this: We can tear apart any team at home; even Maccabi Petah Tikva can beat Luxembourg at Ramat Gan."