Lugassi hoping Israel can use home comforts

The stands rocked when Moshe Lugassi hit a 99th-minute winner for Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC and the midfielder hopes a similar atmosphere can drive Israel to U21 glory in June.

Moshe Lugassi in Under-21 action with Israel
Moshe Lugassi in Under-21 action with Israel ©Israel Football Association

After savouring the exultation of scoring a 99th-minute winner for his club Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC last week, Moshe Lugassi says he is keen for more when Israel host the UEFA European Under-21 Championship this summer.

Maccabi's firm grip on the Israeli Premier League trophy was being loosened last Monday when the leaders fell behind at high-flying Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC, as the game moved into added time. Remarkably, the drama was only beginning. Former Sweden striker Rade Prica quickly restored parity at 2-2, setting the stage for Lugassi's incredible clincher for the visitors and their boisterous travelling support.

"It was pure fun," said the 22-year-old. "I brought huge happiness to our crowd, provided great passion for so many people." Not that the Maccabi youngster is allowing his emotions to get the better of him; his domestic achievements are underpinning his international ambitions, not eclipsing them. "When I'm training with my club that is the most important thing, and when I am with the U21s that takes over.

"The truth is that Guy Luzon, the U21 coach, keeps us so well occupied with training that we do not have time to talk about anything else," continued the player with 45 top-flight matches to his name. "We are all in great shape now and will be even better when the tournament starts. With the crowd behind us we can achieve something special."

Indeed, Lugassi reckons this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Israel's players and their fans. "It's hard to believe there will be another big tournament like this in Israel, certainly not in the next few years. That is why we need our supporters, we need to be playing in a full stadium, receiving the right energy. I believe we can win the title."

The hosts, drawn in Group A alongside England, Italy and Norway, kick off their campaign against Norway on 5 June.