Israel U21 national team 370.
(photo credit: FA/Courtesy)
After nearly three years of preparations, the big day finally arrives on
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.
“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
Israel faces Italy in its second match at Bloomfield Stadium on
Saturday before completing its Group A games versus England at Teddy Stadium on
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
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
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.
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