The Israel Under-21 team defeated Czechia 1-0 on a late goal by Omri Gendelman to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2023 European Championships taking place in Georgia. With the blue-and-white’s win coupled with England’s 2-0 victory over Germany handed Guy Luzon’s team second place in Group C to move into the knockout rounds where they will now face the host on Saturday night.
In a game that saw very few chances it was Israel’s starlet Oscar Gloukh who sent the ball right to Gendelman who headed it home to for the lone marker of the contest as the win continued Israel’s incredible summer after the Under-20 team took third place at the World Cup in Argentina.
Israel also moved to within striking distance of a place at the 2024 Paris Olympics if they can win one or two games depending on how deep France makes it at the Euros as they automatically qualify for the Games as the host.
Georgia will await Israel in the first quarterfinal of the tournament as the hosts advanced to the knockout rounds by winning Group A with a win over Portugal coupled with a pair of draws with Belgium and the Netherlands.
“I’m all choked up, I have no words,” an excited Luzon said after the historic victory. “We had a game plan and I said that we needed to have a tremendous amount of patience. I’m so happy that we won and it was deserved. The players deserve all of the credit and I am so happy for our country, there is no one more proud and satisfied than I am.”
“I told the guys that true champions are the ones that make it to the Olympics and we have to take another step to get there with the best of the best at Paris next year. Before the competition began, any realistic person who would have thought we were going to advance from this group couldn’t be serious. I told everyone that we can’t be realistic.”
As for Israel’s next opponent, Luzon knows that Georgia will provide an extraordinary challenge, “I watched Georgia. They play with a lot of passion, a lot of spirit. No one believed that in a group with Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal, they would finish first. All respect to this team. And I am happy it will be a game with 50 or 60,000 people, I love it, I wish it would be 100,000! But we will do our best and the best team will reach the semi-finals.”
The goal scorer Omri Gendelman also spoke about the win, “I feel like I am in the middle of a dream. This is unbelievable and the guys deserve it. We left our heart and soul out on the pitch, we deserve this so much. I’m so happy that we advanced, we didn’t expect this. We will celebrate now and then head to Tbilisi where we hope that we can continue to make history.”
“Your nation doesn’t know how much strength they give us. We are so emotional when we sing the national anthem and that we play for our entire country that supports us. It’s just incredible and this is for them.”