Israel U21 v Portugal U21
Israel will be looking to put behind a disappointing start to the tournament as they face Portugal in their final group match on June 16 in Groningen. Having lost to the Netherlands in the opener on June 10, the games against Belgium and Portugal hold special significance for Israel if they hope to progress through the group stages in this their first appearance at the UEFA European Under 21 Championship.
Israel had more worries from the Dutch game as forward Ben Sahar twisted his knee during the game and had to be replaced by Toto Tamuz. The Chelsea striker is confident he can make an appearance against Portugal. "I did something to my knee but I think it will be fine," he said.
Sahar also compared Israel to last year's winners the Netherlands saying the Dutch had lost their first game, but ended up winners in Portugal. . Israel captain Dekel Keinan has said he hopes to forget the loss and concentrate on big games against Belgium and Portugal. However Israel coach Guy Levy's plans will take a sure hit if Sahar is ruled out of the rest of the tournament.
"I'm very proud of my players, we were just a bit unlucky with regards to scoring. In the middle of the pitch we were particularly good and were very organized," Levy said after the Dutch game. However even he is aware that Israel needs to put in a superlative performance if they are to progress further in this tournament.
Portugal on the other hand have plenty to prove having failed to progress beyond the group stages last year. The defeat at home must have rankled them although they played out a sedate, goalless draw against Belgium in their opening game. Portugal have entered to tournament with huge expectations and with a star-studded line-up that includes Nani, Hugo Almeida and João Moutinho.
However big names do not a tournament make and Portugal are very aware of this. Coach José Couceiro will have work to do if his team is to progress further in this edition of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
Tags: Israel, Portugal, European Under 21 championship