Eli Ochana leads the Israelis into their first U19 tournament, which starts this weekend, and has targeted a last four place at the competition, though admits it will be a tough ask.
Drawn in Group A alongside the hosts, Portugal and Austria, Ochana told jewishnews.co.uk: “We believe in ourselves. We know that we are not the superior side, but until now we did the best we could and it worked, so I think we can go on and on.
“We wish to reach the semis, but also know that it is going to be very, very difficult.”
Under no illusion as to the quality of the teams at the tournament, he points to the likes of England, Spain, Italy and Holland not being there as an indication of the strength of the eight sides who are. “All the teams that qualified are very strong,” he says, “Just from looking at the teams that didn’t qualify you can understand how strong this tournament is going to be. We know what we need to know about our opponents and all the team together is going to provide the best we can.”
While hoping to finish in the top-two of the group to qualify for the semi-finals, he knows even finishing third in the group will see them qualify for the U20 World Cup in New Zealand next year, though says anything they will achieve will be a team effort. Insisting the side don’t contain any ‘star’ players, he says: “We have a good team, good players that play all together as one unit. We don’t have any superstars, but have players that play one for another and all for the team.”
Full of pride at leading the side, and hoping their first appearance at this age group bodes well for the future of the Israeli game, he says:“I’m very proud to be at this position with the U19 team. For sure it is a great achievement for the Israeli Football and I hope that also in the future we will see the results of that.”
* Israel kick-off their campaign on Saturday against Portugal, before taking on Austria next Tuesday. Their final group game is against Hungary next Friday. All matches will be televised live on British Eurosport.