All eyes on Israel as Euros set to kick off

Blue-and-white takes on Norway to open tournament, with Italy just around the corner.

June 5, 2013 05:45
2 minute read.
Israel U21 national team

Israel U21 national team 370. (photo credit: FA/Courtesy)


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After nearly three years of preparations, the big day finally arrives on Wednesday.

Israel hosts Norway in the European Under-21 Championship opener in Netanya, hoping to get off to a winning start in what is arguably the most prestigious soccer tournament of the summer, with no World Cup, Euro championship or Copa America taking place.

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“This is the first time Israel is hosting a tournament of this stature,” said Israel coach Guy Luzon. “It is a great honor for us to welcome all these teams to our wonderful country.”

Israel faces Italy in its second match at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday before completing its Group A games versus England at Teddy Stadium on June 11.

Nevertheless, despite its modest reputation, Luzon believes Norway is the strongest team in the group.

“Norway knocked out France in the playoffs, which in my opinion is the best team in Europe, so that pretty much says it all,” Luzon explained. “I think Norway will beat England and Italy and go all the way.”

Also Wednesday, England faces Italy at Bloomfield.

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.

On Thursday, Group B will get underway with the match between defending champion Spain and Russia, with Germany playing the Netherlands later in the day.

Luzon insisted on Tuesday that he hasn’t, and won’t, speak to his players about any specific Norwegian players, something confirmed by captain Nir Biton, claiming that his squad is far better off focusing on its own play and on the Norway team as a whole.

In many ways, the Israel team is a mystery having only played friendly matches over the past two years as it didn’t need to qualify for the tournament as the host.

However, Luzon was confident that the side’s level of performance in its recent games can see Israel succeed over the next fortnight.

“There’s no doubt that we will receive plenty of support from the fans, but first and foremost we need to play the way we have done in the last couple of years,” Luzon said.

“We are certainly excited but we are also calm as we know we have done everything to be as ready as possible for the moment of truth. Norway is the clear favorite, but we will give our all to win and if we accomplish that we will be in a great position.”

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