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Levy defends his young 'pioneers'

Published: Tuesday 12 June 2007, 16.34CET
Israel coach Guy Levy said his side were paying the price for their recent success after being criticised following their 1-0 loss to the Netherlands on Sunday.
by Michael Harrold
from Groningen

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Published: Tuesday 12 June 2007, 16.34CET

Levy defends his young 'pioneers'

Israel coach Guy Levy said his side were paying the price for their recent success after being criticised following their 1-0 loss to the Netherlands on Sunday.

Israel coach Guy Levy said his side were paying the price for their recent success after being criticised in the nation's press following their 1-0 loss to the Netherlands on Sunday.

Disappointment
Not since the 1976 Olympics have Israel qualified for a major tournament and this is their first appearance in a UEFA European Under-21 Championship. But it is a measure of the success Levy's side have enjoyed that expectations have risen so high that defeat against the hosts and holders came as a such a disappointment.

'Pioneers'
Levy deflected criticism over team selection, substitutions and a perceived defensive approach in Monday's press conference, before going on the attack himself. "We've got used to being criticised, but we have to remember this is the first time any Israeli national team has reached such a stage and this is thanks to these players," he said. "All of us are here because of them and I won't let anyone harm them or criticise them in any way. We are the first ones to reach this stage and we are the pioneers and that has a cost."

Injury doubts
Levy had earlier riled the Israeli press corps by cancelling an open training session, but he himself had already seen all he needed. Ben Sahar, who twisted a knee against the Dutch, had a light training session and should be fit to face Belgium on Wednesday while fellow striker Amit Ben-Shushan looks to have overcome his hamstring problem after joining in with the rest of the squad.

'Most important'
Levy added he had watched the second half of Belgium's goalless draw with Portugal and was impressed with what he saw. "Belgium are very strong, very physical but also have a lot of skilful players. It will be a tough game for us because both teams have to win to qualify. It is the most important game for both teams."

Last updated: 12/06/07 13.39CET

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