Betar drawn with FC Copenhagen in Champions League qualifier

The Israeli champion faces a tricky tie in the Danish champion.

betar champs 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
betar champs 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem will only begin its European campaign in a month's time, but on Friday afternoon the side's Champions League dream took a blow following the draw for the competition's second qualifying round in Nyon, Switzerland. The Israeli champion faces a tricky tie against Danish champion FC Copenhagen, with the first match to take place in the Danish capital on July 31 and the return leg being played at Teddy Stadium a week later. "The draw is difficult, but reasonable," Betar coach Yitzhak Schum said. "We must advance no matter who we face. I hope that after the tie is over we'll be able to say that the draw was good." Also on Friday, Maccabi Tel Aviv was drawn to face Andorran side Santa Coloma in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Cup. The yellow-and-blue will host the first leg on July 19, with the second leg being played on August 2. "We will not take our opponent lightly," coach Eli Cohen said of the Andorran runner-up. "In soccer anything can happen and we will make sure we're ready for the tie." Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Tel Aviv will begin their UEFA Cup campaign in the second qualifying round for which the draw will take place on August 3. Copenhagen played in the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in its history last year, stunning Dutch giants Ajax in the third qualifying round. The club, which has claimed four of the last five Danish championships, picked up seven points in the group stage, defeating Manchester United and Rangers, and drawing with Benfica at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. Betar can, however, draw some encouragement from the fact that the Danes lost all three of their away matches of the stage, scoring just one goal. "The draw could have been better and it could have been worse," Betar midfielder Michael Zandberg said. "Copenhagen is a strong side with European experience and we can't afford to underestimate any team." Copenhagen's squad is bursting with quality, with midfielder Jesper Gronkjaer the most recognizable name on the team. Gronkjaer, 29, played for Ajax (1998-2000), Chelsea (2000-2004), Atletico Madrid and Stuttgart before returning to his homeland last season. The winger, who has played 65 times for the Danish national team, is joined in the side's attack by 33-year-old Swede Marcus Allback. The striker has experience in the Italian and German top divisions and also played for English club Aston Villa for two seasons (2002-2004). Copenhagen wasn't taking Betar lightly. Head of Sports, Carsten Jensen called it "probably the worst draw possible." "The Israeli teams have made a strong impact on the European tournaments in recent years. Last year they had a team in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup, so we know that Betar will be a competent opponent," Jensen said. Copenhagen's Norwegian coach St le Solbakken has only made one notable acquisition in the off-season to date, signing Swedish defender Mikael Antonsson from Greek side Panathinaikos. "I think this is a good draw, we could have been drawn against better sides," veteran defender David Amsalem said. "It's always better to play the first leg away from home. They don't know what Teddy's like and our main goal will be to settle the tie in Jerusalem."