Sometimes, it takes just a smile to say a thousand words. That was the case with Israel captain Dor Peretz, who could not suppress a grin perpetuating across his face in spite of a second defeat at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship.
For Israel, simply taking part in this, their first finals, is a reason for satisfaction. Even after losing 3-0 to Austria at a rainswept Ferenc Szusza Stadion in Budapest – a result which confirmed their elimination from the competition – the overwhelming sentiment was one of pride to have represented their nation in a major tournament.
"It is, very much," Peretz said after his own debut at the final tournament in the Hungarian captial, having missed their opener through suspension. "Right now, I am just so proud." This is not the reaction one might expect from a player who has left the field off the back of a second consecutive 3-0 loss, but Peretz did not need many words to sum up his satisfaction. "It's amazing," he added.
It could so easily have been better. Israel pressed Austria early on, showing no sign of the nerves which had stifled them against Portugal. But like in that opening match, just when they seemed to be asserting themselves, they suffered a significant setback.
Peretz was even able to take that philosophically. "It's true, it was Austria's first chance of the game and they scored it, but that didn't break us," he said. "It was unfortunate for us, but I don't really think it's only bad luck, I just think what happened was meant to happen.
"We also played very well in the first 20 minutes of the second half against Portugal, but they got the goal. This is how it goes.
We were so close, but that is what makes it so frustrating. We just lacked the goal."
Nevertheless, Israel still have plenty to play for in their final group game against the hosts. A draw would be enough to earn a place in the World Cup, and the focus has already turned to ending this maiden tournament on a positive note.
"We cannot let our thoughts get us down," Peretz said. "We need to be positive and prepare ourselves mentally. We know we can do it; we need to win this game, and we want to win it. Yes, we want to do it. We really want to do it and we know that we can do it. We are mentally strong." A glance at Peretz's face was enough to support the accuracy of his statement. In fact, his contagious smile said so much more than any words might.
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