Israel’s men’s under-19 soccer team reached its first European final match, defeating France in the UEFA under-19 championship semi-finals by a score of 2-1 on Tuesday at the DAC Arena in Dunajska Streda, Slovakia. .
The Israeli team will now face England in the final match on Friday night in Trnava, Slovakia.
The national youth soccer team had already made history on Saturday night by qualifying for the semi-finals, the furthest an Israeli team had advanced in the competition.
Both Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid congratulated the team on Tuesday with celebratory posts on Twitter. Bennett said he was “proud to [Israel’s] youth team that made history and qualified for the Euro final!”
“We have a wonderful and inspiring young generation that brings us joy across the board,” the prime minister wrote.
Tactical maneuvers in the 30th minute of the match by striker Ariel Lugasi and midfielder Oscar Gloukh led the French team to score an own goal, giving the Israeli team a 1-0 lead. In the 57th minute, midfielder El Yam Kancepolsky brought Israel’s score to 2-0 with a “lethal header”. France then scored their first goal of the game but did not recover.
“It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the story just made by Israel’s youth national team,” said longtime Haaretz sports correspondent Ido Rokovsky.
“If the achievement of qualifying for the Junior World Cup was impressive, advancing to the final of the tournament already requires a new word in Hebrew,” added Rokovsky.
The achievement also came with a ticket to participate in the FIFA U-20 (under-20) World Cup tournament, which will take place next year in Indonesia.