In first, Israel’s U19 football team reaches European semi-final

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Israel’s national youth football team made history on Saturday night by advancing to the semi-finals of the UEFA Under-19 Championships, Israel’s most advanced team in the competition.

This feat also came with a ticket to participate in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, which will be held next year in Indonesia.

Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper congratulated the team on their success.

“You brought determination and the winning spirit to the field and proved what true winners you are,” Tropper said in a statement.

The side finished second in their group despite losing 0-1 to England on Saturday on a soggy ground in Slovakia.

The semi-final will be against France, who are undefeated in the league so far, and qualified by beating Italy 4-1.

Public broadcaster Kan will broadcast the game live at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Israel time.

Coach Ofir Haim told Kan on Sunday it was an “extremely exciting” achievement.

“It’s unprecedented,” he said.

Haim admitted the team will face a challenge against the French, but noted that they have drawn in the past.

“It means it’s possible to do it…and I think we’ll come prepared,” he said.

Haim said the Israeli team used brains to make up for whatever strength they lacked.

“I like when players think things through,” he said. “It is clear that in Israel we do not have the physical capacity [ability] and the speed of Europe…so we have to compensate for that with intellect and wisdom and in other components, and in that we are better than everyone,” Haim said.

Israel’s road to the semi-finals began with a 2-2 draw against Serbia in their opening match, followed by a 4-2 victory against Austria in the following match. England are also unbeaten in the Championship so far and scored the winning goal after six minutes.

Competing in the World Cup next year could present challenges as Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country.

In 2015, Indonesia finally granted Israeli badminton player Misha Zilberman a visa to enter the country and compete. After trying for six months to get the document, the Badminton World Federation stepped in to make sure he could get the visa.

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