Euro 2007: Under-21s to play host Dutch in opener

Portugal, Belgium also drawn in group; top two teams will book spot in semifinal of tournament and secure ticket to 2008 Olympics.

toto tamuz 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
toto tamuz 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israel's under-21 team will face the Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium after the draw for the 2007 U21 European Championship was held Friday evening in Arnhem, Holland. Israel will begin its campaign on June 10 in the opening match of the tournament against the Netherlands, the tournament host and defending champion. The squad will face Belgium three days later and play its final Group A match on June 16 against Portugal. The top two teams in the group will book a spot in the semifinal of the tournament and also secure a ticket to the 2008 Olympics. "It's a great honor to be among the top eight teams in Europe and we accept the draw lovingly," U21 coach Guy Levy said. "We are aware of the fact that we will be facing very strong teams, but we believe in our abilities and our players. "We did our job in qualifying, and played some really good games. We have some good players and we hope we can show that next June. We are here on merit as one of the best eight teams in Europe so we should think big - after beating France in a play-off we can beat any team." Israel qualified for the European championship after defeating France 2-1 on aggregate in a two-legged playoff tie. "It could have been a lot worse; we avoided England and Italy," said Dutch coach Foppe De Haan. "We have two outsiders in Israel and Belgium and these are teams we know less about." The Czech Republic, England, Serbia and Italy will battle for the two semifinal spots in Group B of the competition. Should England reach the last four, a playoff between the third-place teams in each group will be played, with the winner getting a place in the Olympics.