ëãåøâìIsrael’s UEFA U19 European Championships campaign got off to a losing start on Saturday after they were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Portugal.

Up against one of the tournament favorites, Eli Ohana’s side were always second best, though a high-octane energy performance, coupled with steely grit and determination saw them threaten to go into the halftime break on level terms.

Manchester City’s Marcos Lopes had already struck the underside of the bar with a sumptuous free-kick which left Dean Gal in the Israeli goal rooted to his spot, while Raphael Guzzo and Gelson Martins had also gone close for the Portuguese.

However, there was nothing Gal could do in the 39th minute when Lopes’ shot took a wicked deflection off Ayad Habashi to give the Portuguese a deserved lead.

Israel started the second half brightly with Michael Ohana going close with a volley from just outside the area, though just as they seemed they could get back into the game, they fell 2-0 behind just past the hour mark. Gal did well to keep out Martins’ effort, though André Silva was on hand to sweep in the rebound. And Israel’s hopes of getting anything out of the game were ended 12 minutes from time when Lopes claimed his second of the afternoon, volleying in from Francisco Ramos’ cut-back.

Speaking after the match, Ohana said: “In the first 20 minutes of the second half, we showed we can play football. Otherwise, we must attack and defend better, but Portugal are a better team with much more quality players. They have some excellent individuals, but it’s no surprise. We saw them in the elite round and they were excellent; they create chances so easily. But in the first half, our problem was not defending, but attacking because we couldn’t hold the ball. We lost it too quickly, allowing them chances to launch counterattacks, and they are so fast, so quick. They didn’t create many chances in the second half, but still scored two goals.

“They are a better team and deserved to win. It’s our first time in this event whereas Portugal are here almost every year. They have experience and talent, but we’re happy and proud to be here and hopefully we get better results.”

Needing a win against Austria – who beat hosts Hungary 3-1 in the other Group A game – in their next game on Tuesday, he said: “We need to be more focused and play more as a team, we need to play as we played in the elite round. The first ten minutes of the second half is the way we want to play. The coach told us to be focused, to go onto the field and play the way we know how to play.”