UEFA Under 21 Championships 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israel Under-21 national team entered the final stretch of its preparations
on Thursday for next week’s European Championship opener against Norway in
Israel hosts Norway next Wednesday in the first match of the
14-day tournament, which will be played in Tel Aviv, Petah Tikva and Jerusalem,
as well as Netanya.
The blue-and-white will face Italy at Bloomfield
Stadium three days after the opener before completing its Group A games versus
England at Teddy Stadium on June 11.
Group B will be contested between
defending champion Spain, Germany, Netherlands and Russia.
The top two
teams from each group will advance to the semifinals to be played on June 15,
with the final to take place at Teddy on June 18.
The Dutch team was the
first to arrive in Israel, landing at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday.
Netherlands squad contains 12 players boasting senior honors, with two others,
Tonny Trindade de Vilhena and Jeroen Zoet, also being involved with the senior
“Our goal is to win the tournament,” said Dutch coach Cor
Pot. “Otherwise, we would not even bother travelling to Israel.
that we are expected to become European champions is overstating it a bit. We
are certainly candidates, but nations like Spain, England, Italy and Germany
also have strong squads.”
The Russian team has also already started
training in Israel, with Italy and Norway to arrive on Saturday.
internationals Marco Verratti of PSG and Mattia Destro of AS Roma are part of
the Italy squad, which is also hoping to lift the trophy.
and Destro are really enthusiastic about being with us and have already
understood that our main strength is the group,” said coach Devis Mangia. “We
have enough quality to achieve something big in Israel. We will have to focus
from the start because our opponents in the group are all very
The German and English squads arrive on Sunday, with hot
favorite Spain only flying in on Monday.
Spanish coach Julen Lopetegui
named an experienced squad, which boasts five players who took part in the
successful 2011 campaign, namely Manchester United goalkeeper and U21 captain
David de Gea, Barcelona’s Thiago Alcántara and Martín Montoya, as well as Iker
Muniain of Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal’s Diego Mariño.
debutant for the senior Spain team, Málaga’s Isco, along with fellow full
international Thiago, will also play in Israel.
“The three national teams
we will face in the group stage are all very competitive and contain players
with a lot of experience who have featured for their seniors,” said
“This tournament is a very attractive one and contains some
really big names.”
Elsewhere, FIFA president Sepp Blatter promised
Palestinians on Wednesday that soccer’s world governing body would help put an
end to the long-running problems with Israel.
“I can confirm I will help,
FIFA will help. It’s a problem of football,” said Blatter at a conference of the
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in Mauritius before FIFA’s Congress which
started on Thursday.
Last week, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino
said after its Congress in London that European soccer’s governing body was
within its rights to award the Under-21 tournament to Israel and would not
consider moving it.
But Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestine FA and
Palestine Olympic Committee, said the situation had worsened since Blatter and
International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Jacques Rogge visited the region on
separate occasions in 2011 and 2010.
At Rajoub’s request there will be an
open debate on the situation at the FIFA Congress on Friday.Reuters
contributed to this report