Israel’s Under-19s fall to 3-1 defeat by England in European soccer final

Israel’s under-19 men’s soccer team was defeated by England in the country’s first-ever European soccer final on Friday night, with England notching the winning goals late into extra time.

The Israeli team had taken the lead in the first half of the match, played in Trnava, Slovakia, with a goal from Ariel Lugasi, who fired home on 40 minutes. But England equalized in the second half, through defender Callum Doyle, sending the match into extra time.

Then, with 12 minutes remaining, England took the lead when a cross from the right was bundled into the net by Carney Chukwuemeka.

The Israeli team, which dominated possession for much of the match, came close to leveling the scores minutes later, but England cleared the danger after a goalmouth scramble.

And with four minutes left, England’s Aaron Ramsey, sealed the win from close range.

Before the game, Israel’s newly installed Prime Minister Yair Lapid tweeted that he had called coach Ofir Haim to wish the team luck and tell him “all of Israel is behind you… and proud of you. You have already proved you are champions. Now go and show the world,” he urged.

Israel had advanced to the final by defeating France 2-1 in the semifinals on Tuesday, at the DAC Arena in Dunajska Streda, Slovakia. The Israeli TV commentator at the semi-final 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 qualifying for the semifinals, the furthest an Israeli squad had ever advanced in the competition.

Then-prime minister Naftali Bennett and Lapid congratulated the team after Tuesday’s win with celebratory posts on Twitter.

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

Tactical maneuvering in the 30th minute of the game by forward Ariel Lugasi and midfielder Oscar Gloukh led to the French team scoring an own goal, giving the Israeli team a 1-0 advantage. In the 57th minute, midfielder El Yam Kancepolsky took Israel’s score to 2-0 with a “lethal header“. France then scored its first goal in the game but didn’t recover.

“It is impossible to overstate the importance of the history just made by the Israeli national youth team,” declared veteran Haaretz sports correspondent Ido Rokovsky.

“If the achievement of qualifying for the Youth World Cup was impressive, then advancing to the finals of the tournament already requires a new word in Hebrew,” Rokovsky added.

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

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