Israel’s under-19 men’s soccer team has reached the country’s first-ever European soccer final, defeating France in the semifinals of the UEFA under-19 championships 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 evening in Trnava, Slovakia.
As the final whistle blew, the Israeli TV commentator at the game 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.
Both Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid congratulated the team Tuesday with celebratory posts on Twitter. Bennett said he was “proud of [Israel’s] youth team that made history and qualified for the Euro finals!”
“We have a young, wonderful and inspiring generation that brings us joy in all areas,” wrote the premier.
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.