Israel's meeting with England on Tuesday may not hold the significance it might have done given the Group A standings – which show England eliminated and the hosts needing a minor miracle to progress – yet for one Israel player, it is the fixture that most excites him at these finals.
Midfielder Omri Altman plays his football for Fulham FC and describes the contest as his own "private derby". He joined the west London club in summer 2011 from Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC and is now a regular for their reserves. "It is not a normal game for me," he told UEFA.com. "I have friends in the England squad and many players I have played against. It will be a big thing for me because I also know fans are coming from England."
The 19-year-old is the youngest member of Guy Luzon's UEFA European Under-21 Championship squad. He did not feature in qualifying but scored once in the warm-up games and is enjoying the chance to get a taste of a major tournament before the next qualification campaign. "This is a tremendous experience for me," he said. "It's such a big tournament and it's enough to just look from the bench to feel this special feeling every footballer knows. I really hope to play against England."
Israel will begin qualifying for the 2015 finals against Azerbaijan in September and Altman is among eight players who will remain in the squad for the next cycle. "The fact we have so many players that will continue in this team says a lot. It makes me optimistic, although we only made it through qualification once, in 2007. We might have started something big."
As for Tuesday's match in Jerusalem, he admits to surprise that there will be nothing at stake for Stuart Pearce's England. In fact, he sounds genuinely disappointed by their demise. "Honestly, it's a major blow," he continued. "I don't know what happened. I didn't expect it to finish this way and I was thinking they'd make it at least to the semi-finals. As I left England the expectations were so high that I can imagine the disappointment. They didn't really think they would be out after two games."
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