Israeli U-21 national soccer team advances to Euro quarter-finals

Blue and Whites beat the Czech Republic in dramatic fashion to secure their spot in the knockout stages for the first time ever

Israel advanced to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship quarter-finals thanks to a dramatic 1-0 win over the Czech Republic.
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Omri Gandelman headed a beautifully lofted cross from Oscar Gloukh in the 82nd minute to secure a second-place finish in Group C and earn the Blue and Whites their first-ever appearance in the tournament's knockout stages.
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שחקן הנבחרת הצעירה של ישראל עומרי גאנדלמן חוגג
שחקן הנבחרת הצעירה של ישראל עומרי גאנדלמן חוגג
Goalscorer Omri Gandelman and teammates celebrate the winning goal
(Photo: Israel Football Association)
"A new big surprise in the U21 Euros," wrote Spanish newspaper Marca, adding, "Israel advanced to the quarter-finals after a fantastic drama. Gandelman made the dream come true with a winning goal."
The newspaper AS also paid respect to Luzon's team: "Israel's promising generation continues to thrive. They were born with a different character and come willing to fight in every game," the paper wrote, adding, "Happenings in Israeli soccer over the past year are madness.”
Carlos Xavier Argüello, from Mundo Deportivo, added, "Israel shows time and time again a lot of character in this tournament, as well as in previous tournaments. Something special is happening there."
Oscar Gloukh was named Man of the Match, and the UEFA website noted that "He was above all the players with his technique, vision and creativity. He started most of the Israel attacks. Even when it was difficult to beat the Czech defense, he kept trying and finally gave the pass for the goal."
“Israel have several players who also reached the U19 EURO final last year – the first time a team from that nation had got to a UEFA knockout phase since the U16 EURO in 1999,” it added.
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שחקן הנבחרת הצעירה של ישראל אוסקר גלוך
שחקן הנבחרת הצעירה של ישראל אוסקר גלוך
Oscar Gloukh
(Photo: Israel Football Association)
Austrian media also showered the Red Bull Salzburg midfielder with praise for outstanding his performance. "Gloukh helped Israel secure the quarter-final ticket from a group that also included England and Germany, who were eventually eliminated. His excellent work on the wing led to an assist, and Omri Gandelman scored."
Czech media lamented the dramatic exit and praised the Israeli national team. "Israel was more active and determined from the start of the game. Experience and luck decided the match’s final minutes."
The Israeli national team’s dressing room burst into a big celebration following the match, together with players and their parents. Particularly moving was the embrace between goal scorer Omri Gandelman and his father, who was waiting for him in the stands.
"It feels amazing, to make history twice in such a short time, it's emotional," said center-back Stav Lemkin, one of the protagonists of the U-20 national team's heroics in the World Cup earlier this month. "I think everyone started to believe that we can do it. Guy Luzon and the staff prepared us properly for the games. I feel confident that we can make more history here.
I felt that we were in control of the game, and it was just a matter of time until we scored. We were emotional because we knew the results of Germany’s game. The staff gives us confidence and prepares us well for the matches.”
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Israerli national U-21 team
Israerli national U-21 team
Israerli national U-21 team
(Photo: Reuven Schwartz)
“We'll reach the quarter-finals to beat Georgia,” he said, ahead of their game against the tournament hosts. “It's clear that we'll stand before 50,000 fans in Tbilisi, but we’ll arrive aiming to win. It's a game for a ticket to the Olympics, which we’ll also reach eventually."
And what about Israel’s upcoming opponent? Georgia, whom Guy Luzon's men will face on Saturday in Tbilisi, is far from being a part of Europe's elite and is also making its maiden campaign in the tournament, which it’s hosting jointly with Romania.
The Georgians arrived as a clear underdog in a group that includes the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal but managed to surprise everyone with their capable play.
On Tuesday, the Georgian national team advanced to the quarter-finals from first place in Group A, after a one-all draw against the Netherlands, who finished third with three points and were eliminated from the tournament.
Another point that the Israeli national team will have to contend with is the exceptional support Georgia receives from its fans, who fill stadiums during games.
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