SOCCER

Israel national youth football team stuns France to reach historic 1st European final

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Israel’s men’s under-19 football team reached the country’s first-ever European football final, beating France in the semi-finals of the UEFA Under-19 Championship by a score of 2- 1 Tuesday at the DAC Arena in Dunajska Streda, Slovakia.

The Israeli team will now face England in the final match on Friday night in Trnava, Slovakia.

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At the final whistle, the match’s Israeli television commentator called the victory “one of the greatest achievements in the history of Israeli sport”.

The national youth soccer team had already made history on Saturday night by advancing to the semi-finals, the furthest an Israeli team had ever progressed in the competition.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid congratulated the team on Tuesday with celebratory messages on Twitter. Bennett said he was “proud of [Israel’s] youth team that made history and qualified for the Euro final!”

“We have a young, wonderful and inspiring generation that brings us joy in all areas,” the Prime Minister wrote.

Tactical maneuvers in the 30th minute of the match by striker Ariel Lugasi and midfielder Oscar Gloukh saw the French team score an own goal, giving the Israeli team a 1-0 advantage. In the 57th minute, midfielder El Yam Kancepolsky made Israel 2-0 with a “deadly header”. France then scored their first goal in the match but failed to recover.

“It is impossible to overstate the importance of the history that the Israeli youth national team has just written,” said veteran Haaretz sports correspondent Ido Rokovsky.

“If achieving qualification for the Youth World Cup was impressive, then qualifying for the tournament final already requires a new word in Hebrew,” Rokovsky added.

This achievement also came with a ticket to participate in the FIFA U-20 (under 20) World Cup tournament, to be held next year in Indonesia.

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