Israel U20’s go for gold against unbeaten France

Jul 16, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

This is it!

The Israel Under-20 National Team will go for gold as they tipoff against France in the final of the European Championship on Sunday (9pm Israel time) after taking out Belgium 67-46 in their semifinal matchup on Saturday night.

There is no question that the young blue-and-white have surprised many with their run towards the title game after a tough group stage round robin. But under the fine coaching of Elad Hasin along with the stellar play by Noam Yaacov and Danny Wolf, Israel is just one win away from European glory.

However, the key to their success and wins over Spain, Germany and Belgium in the Round of 16, quarterfinals and semis has been the team work that the squad has put in with other players rising to the occasion. Whether it has been Ron Zipper, Yuval Levin or others, there is no way that Israel would be in the position they are in as they ready to play France who will be absolutely no pushovers.

Israel – Photo Credit: FIBA

France has waltzed through the tournament and arguably has been the best team in Crete having gone a cool 6-0 averaging 90 points per game while only giving up 58. After smashing the host nation Greece in their semifinal 98-51, Aurelian Guillaume’s crew will be looking to walk away with the gold medal as well.

Ten of their players have checked in with over 5.7 points per game while Israel has just four players who have done the same. The rebounding is even at about 38 per team but France is averaging 25.5 assists to Israel’s 16.5 and they are also outshooting the blue-and-white from deep going 10.3/24.5 (42.2%) to 5.5/23.3 (23.6%).

Israel will need to keep Illias Kamardine, Maxime Raynaud, Adama-Alpha Bal and Armel Traore at bay or else they may be in for a tough game ahead.

On paper it looks like France should walk all over Israel, but as we know and have seen in the past, the two time Under-20 Champions back in 2018 and 2019 have plenty of pride and will no doubt leave it all on the line.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister told Hasin after the semifinal win, “First of all I want to give you congratulations from here to there and back. It’s an amazing accomplishment and you have filled us all with pride and hope and you are already champions no matter what happens. We are counting on you and are sending you our support.”

Elad Hasin – Photo Credit: FIBA

“This is the DNA of our National Team,” Hasin said. “That is our X-Factor. Together with all of our staff and with the right focus we are doing something truly incredible and we want this dream to continue on.”

While Israel had won their first game, they lost the next two, however, Hasin worked with the players on the mental side of the game which has led them to three wins in a row in the knockout rounds.

“I reminded the players that we are a good team and better than what we had shown. Sometimes you have to give the guys a bit of confidence, especially after losses or games that we just didn’t play well in. We made some tactical adjustments and worked on the mental side of the game and when there is so much responsibility within the team then it makes our job that much easier.”

Danny Wolf has been one of the unknown stars that flourished in the continental competition and without the Yale big man, who knows where this Israel team would have finished. Credit needs to go to Matan Siman Tov who helped get Wolf on the team thanks to his relationship with the 19-year old’s personal coach and trainer Stacey Moragne who had been college teammates with the Siman Tov. That along with Haisn’s foresight to grab a hold of Wolf changed the entire team’s perspective and look as they march towards the top of the podium.

Danny Wolf – Photo Credit: FIBA

“When I got here before the tournament I was very skeptical, but I am really happy. I come into every game with a positive attitude and I want to help the team, my goal is to win games. I believe in my abilities and when I got here 6 weeks ago I didn’t know any player or coach on the team but our connection is great. That is the basis as the relationships are great in the lockerroom. We will do what the coach tells us to do and I hope we will be able to win.”

The other star of the show for Israel has no doubt been Noam Yaacov who has been superb and has shown what type of connection he has with Wolf on the court. The pair plays so well together and their relationship on the floor seems absolutely flawless.

“It’s a great feeling to be one of the leading the players,” Yaacov began. “At the start of the tournament winning was a bit of a dream but it is now our goal and we will prepare properly to accomplish that goal. The win over Spain proved that we can beat any team and that really lifted our morale especially after we had ended the group stage in last place.”

Noam Yaacov – Photo Credit: FIBA

Yuval Levin who has taken on a bigger and bigger role as the competition has gone on also spoke about the feeling around the team as they head into the gold medal game.

“It’s a terrific feeling and we can feel the entire country behind us. There are so many Israelis here just as if the game was in Tel Aviv. The beginning wasn’t easy but we stayed together. The credit goes to the coach and staff for the terrific preparation. I am dreaming about bringing home the gold medal and hopefully we can do just that.”

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