Israel’s youth soccer team made history Tuesday night when it qualified for the final game of the European Under-19 Championship for the first time. Israel defeated France’s strong team 2-1 and will face England, who defeated Italy 2-1 in the final Friday night (alas, the Jewish State’s national team plays on Shabbat).
Spain’s youth team was the defending champion, having won the last tournament that was held in 2019, with the 2020 and 2021 championships canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe. But Spain was unable to defend its title after failing to qualify for the competition.
The Israeli team took a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute from an own-goal by the French player Suleiman Tora after a wide kick from Israel’s Oscar Gluch. El-Yam Kanzapolski gave Israel a 2-0 lead from a shot in the 57th minute. France’s Alan Virginius narrowed the gap to 2-1 in the 61st minute with a kick inside the 16-yard box. The French team dominated for the remainder of the game but failed to crack the Israeli defense.
National team coach Ofir Haim said at the end of the game: “It’s an amazing and sensational achievement, it’s crazy. I know there’s a great team here with talented players who come to work and learn. I am very proud and happy. Tons of talent, but no egos, each one working for the other. There’s an amazing team here that knows how to integrate talent into the collective.”