Israel's Ofir Kriaf and Italy's Lorenzo Insigne.
(photo credit: Uzi Gal)
Israel’s European Under-21 Championship campaign fell to pieces on Saturday following a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Italy on a sweltering night at Bloomfield Stadium.
After conceding a heartbreaking stoppage-time equalizer to draw 2-2 with Norway in the tournament opener, Israel was hoping to correct the impression versus the Italians, which defeated England 1-0 last week.
However, Italy’s superiority was never under any doubt in Tel Aviv. The Azzurrini took a deserved lead in the 18th minute through Riccardo Saponara after an exquisite team move and the contest was as good as over by halftime. Eyal Golasa was sent off for a two-legged challenge on Saponara in the 37th minute and Manolo Gabbiadini doubled the margin three minutes from the break after the visitors carved the locals defense with ease yet again.
It only got worse for Israel in the second half, with Gabbiadini scoring with a free kick from the edge of the area six minutes after the interval before Alessandro Florenzi capped a miserable night for the hosts in the 71st minute.
Israel coach Guy Luzon was inexplicably pleased with his team’s showing.
“We played superbly until the incorrect sending off,” he explained. “We created chances and I enjoyed every minute.”
Luzon admitted that he didn’t even talk to his players ahead of Saturday’s match and insisted his unorthodox method proved itself on the pitch.
“We will give our best against England in our final group match regardless of what chance we have of advancing,” he said.
With Norway beating England 3-1 in Group A’s earlier match on Saturday, Israel still has a theoretical chance of advancing to the semifinals.
Israel could leapfrog Norway to finish the group in second place, but it would need to defeat England at Teddy Stadium and for Norway to lose to Italy on Tuesday by a combined goal difference of at least seven goals.
Israel’s clash with England will essentially be a battle to avoid last place in the group after the English were eliminated on Saturday.
Goals from Fredrik Semb Berge (15), Jo Inge Berge (34) and Magnus Eikrem (52) secured the win for the Norwegians, with Craig Dawson scoring a consolation goal for England with a penalty in the 57th minute.