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Israel have their work cut out against Italy

Published: Thursday 6 June 2013, 14.30CET
Beaten 3-1 by Italy in the play-offs for the 2009 finals, Israel will look to bounce back from conceding a late equaliser against Norway when they take on the Group A leaders.
Israel have their work cut out against Italy
Mario Balotelli scored twice on Italy's last visit to Israel ©Getty Images
Published: Thursday 6 June 2013, 14.30CET

Israel have their work cut out against Italy

Beaten 3-1 by Italy in the play-offs for the 2009 finals, Israel will look to bounce back from conceding a late equaliser against Norway when they take on the Group A leaders.

Israel will need to make the most of the backing of a passionate home crowd at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv when they take on Group A leaders Italy in the second round of games in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

• The hosts endured late disappointment in their opening game against Norway, twice going ahead through Nir Biton and Alon Turgeman only to concede a 91st-minute equaliser. Italy had no such trouble, beating England 1-0 courtesy of Lorenzo Insigne's superb free-kick with 11 minutes remaining.

Previous meetings
• The teams' only past competitive encounters at U21 level came in the play-offs for the 2009 final tournament, when Pierluigi Casiraghi's Italy were 3-1 winners in both the second leg in Tel Aviv and overall.

• The first game, in Ancona on 11 October 2008, ended goalless, but Italy seized control of the tie inside the first half-hour of the Bloomfield Stadium return thanks to two goals from Mario Balotelli (4, 25). Although Toto Tamuz raised hopes of an unlikely home comeback by pulling one back nine minutes into the second period, Ignazio Abate confirmed Italy's progress to the finals in Sweden with a third goal 15 minutes from time.

• The teams in Tel Aviv on 15 October 2008 were:
Levita, Kende, Chekol, Roash, Gan, Yeini (Natcho 58), Assulin, Cohen, Refaelov (Ben Haim 45), Tamuz, Abuhazira (Avidor 46).
Italy: Consigli, Motta, De Ceglie, Marzoratti, Criscito, Cigarini, Candreva (Bolzoni 60), Morosini, Abate, Lanzafame (Pisano 89), Balotelli (Osvaldo 66).

Match background
• Israel's only previous final tournament appearance came six years ago, when a team coached by Guy Levy lost all three fixtures in the Netherlands, against Portugal (0-4), Belgium and the hosts (both 0-1).

• Prior to their draw against Norway, Israel had won three of their last four competitive U21 contests and both their last two having ended their unsuccessful qualifying campaign for the 2011 finals with a 5-0 home win against Montenegro and a 2-1 success in Sweden.

• Italy did not qualify in 2011, the first time they had missed out on the final tournament since 1998. The Azzurrini were champions in 1992, 1994, 1996 – the only team to win three successive U21 titles – 2000 and 2004 and reached the semi-finals on their last appearance four years ago.

• The five-time U21 champions saw off Sweden 4-2 on aggregate in the play-offs and lost only one of their ten qualifiers, winning eight.

Team ties
• Taleb Twatha was in the Israel side that lost 4-3 to Italy in a U16 tournament on 28 April 2008.

• Omri Altman played against Italy in a U19 friendly international on 29 February 2012. The game finished 1-1.

• Italy coach Devis Mangia worked with Israeli international Eran Zahavi, a former member of Israel's U21 squad, during his spell in charge of US Città di Palermo in 2011/12.

Italy news
• Mangia has had double reason to celebrate in recent days. The Italy coach led his players to victory against England before toasting his 39th birthday at the team hotel on Thursday.

• However, it is not all good news in the Azzurrini camp. Luca Marrone strained his right hamstring during the latter stages of the England game and is still being assessed.

• After resting on Thursday morning, the team convened for training at 18.00 local time. There was a full session for those players who did not face England and a lighter programme for the rest of the squad.

Israel news
• Marwan Kabha is likely to miss the game against Italy after being withdrawn against Norway because of an abdominal injury. The midfielder is also a doubt for the final Group A game against England.

• Israel coach Guy Luzon has promised that his side will produce an improved performance in their second game and was upbeat ahead of training. "We will look a lot better against Italy," he said.

• Israel's Thursday evening training session started later than scheduled because the coaching staff sat the players down to watch a video of the Norway match.

• The players were in buoyant mood during training as the majority started the session with a game of football volleyball.

Last updated: 07/06/13 19.46CET