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Although UEFA European Under-21 Championship hosts Israel suffered successive 2-1 defeats in preparation games against fellow participants Netherlands and Germany, the men in white and blue are not feeling disheartened.
Israel's U21s have played no competitive football for two years and have scant experience of this level generally, but any doubts regarding their sharpness were countered emphatically in 2-1 losses against two-time champions Netherlands and 2009 winners Germany. The team understand they can improve, but these displays have boosted their belief ahead of this summer's showcase.
"We are still learning this kind of football," conceded midfielder Marouan Kabah. "However, I think if we play at the same level that we have in these matches – and with the same motivation and desire – we will do well." Striker Orr Barouch, meanwhile, lauded the collective strength of Guy Luzon's side: "Our advantage is that we play well together, as a team."
The swathes of fans that flocked to The Mushava and Bloomfield Stadiums were another fillip for the tournament hosts. The friendly contests brought an average of 10,000 spectators per match – something to inspire Israel ahead of their June kick-off.
"We need to say 'thank you' to our fans," said midfielder Omri Altman, a member of the Fullham FC youth team and the youngest member of the Israeli squad. "I think we repaid them with two interesting matches and some good football – hopefully we will have even more fans in the summer."
"David met Goliath," said Luzon as he summed up a heartening week's work. "Then he saw Goliath was not scary as he might have thought. We showed we can put up a fight against European-level teams and I am encouraged as the tournament approaches."
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