Israel are in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship finals for the first time and their coach, 50-year-old former striker Eli Ohana, believes the debutants can make a splash in Hungary.
UEFA.com: How do you assess your Group A rivals?
Eliahu Ohana: I was hoping to be in this group, not the other one with Germany and Serbia, against whom we always have difficulties. We know Hungary – we beat them 1-0 last year. It's going to be much more difficult because they are the hosts but we can still compete with them. Portugal are favourites in this group because they are always good at this age and usually make it to the semi-finals. I don't know much about Austria but if they qualified from a group including Russia, they must be a good team. We have a chance because we weren't favourites in the elite round either and we got nine points, no goals conceded and six scored.
UEFA.com: What are Israel's strengths?
Ohana: We play as a team. We are very strong physically. I've been with this team more than a year and most of our matches have been even. We've competed well from a physical point of view. As long as we do this – and we're going to – we have a chance.
UEFA.com: How good has the team been in the last year?
Ohana: We can play better football but we were strong, because to qualify for the finals we won five times and lost once with a goal difference of 18 to three. We did some good things that gave us a lot of confidence. I know we are not favourites but we are not the underdogs – and if we are, we are only a small underdogs, not big underdogs!
UEFA.com: What are you aiming to achieve in Hungary?
Ohana: The first thing is to qualify for the U-20 World Cup, to be one of the six to go to New Zealand. But because we did so well in qualifying, we have gained a lot of confidence so we can do it – why not? If we win the first match, maybe we can spring a big surprise. In football, in my experience, anything can happen.
UEFA.com: What does it mean to Israel to have qualified for the first time?
Ohana: This means a lot to Israeli football because we don't have so many achievements, so every time we have some success it's a big excitement. It's good for the experience of the players and if we qualify for the World Cup it will give them personally a boost and also a boost for youth football in Israel.
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