Israeli football punches ticket to Paris Olympics as they ready for England Euros showdown

Jul 3, 2023 | Football

The Israel Under-21 National team will continue its run at glory at the European Championships when they face England in the semifinals on Wednesday for a ticket to the finals being held in Georgia. The young blue-and-white national teams have surprised many with their fine play under head coach Guy Luzon after the Under-20 team took home a third place finish at the World Cup held in Argentina last month.

Thanks to Israel’s fine showing in the Euros, they have also punched their ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics where an Under-23 team will feature at the prestigious games. With a sensational draw with Germany, a group stage win over Czechia and then a shootout victory against the host nation Georgia in the quarterfinals, coupled with England’s 1-0 win over Portugal in their respective quarterfinal, Luzon’s team accomplished the feat and sent the blue-and-white to the Olympics for the first time since the Montreal Games in 1976.

The Olympic football tournament is similar to that of the U21 Euros and features four groups of four teams which will see each squad play the other teams in their own group in a round robin format for a total of three group games. The top two teams from each group continue to the quarterfinal stage and from there on in the competition will be played as one game knockouts through the final.

The Olympic soccer tournament begins on July 24, 2024 and runs though August 9th while the opening ceremonies for the Games themselves take place on July 26th. The competition will be spread out throughout France and will feature in cities such as Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Bordeaux, Saint Etienne and of course Paris. The stadiums hold over 35,000 fans each and will see countries from across the globe participating.

In addition, each country is allowed to send three players who are above the age of the Under-23 squad and there is already discussion that Israeli star Manor Solomon who will ink a brand new deal with Tottenham in the English Premier League will be one of them. Another player whose name has also been mentioned is Eran Zahavi despite his retirement from international play. However, due to a timing quirk in the system should some of the current team’s players such as Daniel Peretz, Omri Gendelman and Eden Kartzev want to be part of the Olympic squad they would be considered as part of the three overage players.

“Happy, excited, can’t wait to get there,” an ecstatic Guy Luzon exclaimed after England had won and punched Israel’s ticket to the Olympics .” We are much happier for our country than for ourselves and we are happy to represent the flag and can’t wait to sing the national anthem, Hatikva. Our next goal is to advance to the final of the Euros and we will do everything to get there. Which team will we play? We still have some time until then. Right now we are happy that we punched our ticket to the Olympic Games, but all of us are focused on England and the upcoming semifinals.”

Keeper Daniel Peretz added, “Amazing. We still can’t quite digest it. This is due to our teamwork, from the first person to the last, from the professional staff who do so much for us behind the scenes to every single player who are all part of the same mission and create such a positive atmosphere. We all want the team to succeed and that is the most important thing. We all have believed so much in this goal, we believed so much that we could do it and here we did, we succeeded in getting there.”

Moshe Shino Zuares, Chairman of the Israel Football Association was also thrilled, “This feels like a dream, but it’s reality. Sweet, amazing, exciting. The Israel National Team is amongst the four biggest clubs in Europe and has guaranteed its participation in the Olympic Games. The players showed a huge heart, talent, commitment and a tremendous love for one another guided by a wonderful coach and a professional staff that worked day and night to take our football to the highest of heights and unforgettable moments. This is all for you our beloved State of Israel.”

Israel will now look to find a way past the Three Lions, a team that had defeated them 2-0 in the group stages of the competition on Saturday night in Batumi while the other semifinal will feature Spain who will take on Ukraine after they had stunned France in their quarterfinal.

Israel will be without star goalkeeper Daniel Peretz who will miss the game due to yellow card accumulation as the shot stopping gloves will be handed to Tomer Tzarfati who helped lead the Under-20 team to a podium finish at the recent World Cup.

Tzarfati is not the only player from the Under-20 team who has been a part of the Euros as Dor Turgeman, Roy Revivo and a number of others have taken center stage already and the national team should be in good hands no matter who stands between the pipes when they face England.

In other Israel National Team news, Bibars Natcho, the captain of the senior men’s team will be awarded with the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor. Natcho, who became the first ever non-Jewish captain of the blue-and-white is of Circassian origin and is a model of excellence for so many across the country. Having made 88 appearances for the national team while also leading many social action projects throughout the land, Natcho has contributed in many ways to Israeli society and will be recognized as such by the President, Isaac Herzog.

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