Omar Senior is one of the few in the squad who was not part of the journey to the Euro 2022 final. And not only was it not smooth, it was also expelled at the last minute due to a professional decision by coach Ofir Haim. On Saturday, almost a year after that difficult moment, the Hapoel Tel Aviv striker became the great hero of the youth team when he scored in the 92nd minute against Japan the goal that secured them to the eighth round of the FIFA U-20 World Cup and a meeting against Uzbekistan.
Now you're the most talked-about person here, but in the Euros you were the one who was sifted out at the last minute
"Yes, I started with the national team last year. I was in all stages until the Euros, but at the last second Ofir decided not to take me and it was really difficult. But I had two options: either get offended and upset or keep working hard, and that was it. Now Ofir brought me in and I'm glad I got the chance."
Omar Senior stunned Japan in the 92nd minute. Was not at the previous Euros, Photo: Reuters
Describe the goal
"It was really surreal. Somehow I got out of two players and saw Autumn (Lemkin) in the middle, I gave it to him and ran for Stav to give me the pass in. In the end, he somehow continued, gave it to Dor (Turgeman) and I continued the movement. Dor left me with his heel, as they say, on a silver platter."
The ball hits the net and what goes inside?
"I didn't get it. Only now am I beginning to digest, how much joy. It's a crazy feeling that I helped the team, that we went up to eighth, amazing."
How many times have you seen that goal?
"Wow, wow, nonstop, a million times."
Omar Senior and Eli Madmon. Will the Israel national under-20 team continue to make history?, Photo: AFP
Senior's goal was his first since September, when he scored against Ness Ziona in the league, and came after a difficult season at Hapoel Tel Aviv in which he played little and rarely convinced the fans.
You had a difficult season at Hapoel Tel Aviv, angry fans, and lo and behold, for one day you are the hero of the hour.
"It's crazy. I really wanted to help Hapoel Tel Aviv and tried as much as possible to give goals and show that I was capable. It's a shame I didn't get to do it enough at Hapoel but I'm glad it came out here in the national team."
What's the most exciting message you've received after the goal?
"I think Uri is listening to what he said and what he wrote to me last year because suddenly everything changed. I think that's the reaction that moved me the most."
Senor. Israel should skip the obstacles, Photo: AFP
What is it about this team that is so special?
"The special thing here is that everyone really loves everyone. Also the staff, also the players. Everyone loves everyone. When you go out and fight for someone you love, it's a lot more fun and brings results."
How has your relationship with Ofir been since the sifting until now?
"The relationship with Ofir was always good, even after the Euros, he always talked to me. It was good and stayed good."
Towards Uzbekistan, different expectations, both for the national team and for you. How does it feel?
"As a team we will arrive as prepared as possible, prepare well and do the best we can to get to the next level. Personally, I don't know if I'm starting or not, but also from the bench to go up and give with everything, and even if in the lineup - I want to prove to everyone that it wasn't accidental, that goal."
Senior celebrates in a Hapoel Tel Aviv uniform, photo: Bernie Ardov
What will this tournament do to players of this age, to you, to Israeli football?
"I expect the whole team, as many players as possible, to go to Europe, because that's the big thing. The same goes for the staff."
Do you feel the support from Israel?
"We feel tremendous support. It's not obvious that at 3 o'clock at night you see fans screaming and sending messages like that."
Are you still thinking about Turgeman's heel?
"I'm still imagining and hoping it will happen again in the next game."
Latest feelings ahead of the game?
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"There are good feelings and I believe we will get the job done."
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