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Absolute madness in Argentina after the sensational qualification of the youth team to the semi-finals of the World Cup. There were celebrations in the dressing room for an hour after the 2-3 victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals, when Sports Minister Miki Zohar also called coach Ofir Haim and congratulated him. At the same time, there were quite a few in the team who felt that the celebrations after the victory against Japan were bigger than the celebrations last night.
"Maybe we're not digesting and maybe we're determined and want to make sure it won't be the last joy," one of the players on the team tried to explain. "We believe in ourselves before every game and this time we believed even though almost no one believed. There's a special team here."
Indeed, few believed before the game that the team could beat Brazil, but in the days leading up to the game faith in the team only grew. The players who were encouraged by the dramatic victories believed that even against one of the strongest teams in the world, they could stand as equals. "There's something different about the feeling of the team. There are games that sweep us away, that's how it was at the Euros," the team said. "After the game against Japan there was such a feeling and that's why we really believed against Uzbekistan as well. After the dramatic victory in the eighth final, we believed even more that it could also be done against Brazil. Even though we believed, the truth is that we still don't digest and don't want to digest until the tournament is over."
As far as they are concerned, the work is not yet finished. The national team players celebrate (Photo by Getty Images, ANDRES LARROVERE/AFP)
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Ofir Haim's team continues to show character in every game, and last night it came back from behind twice and reversed the result after falling behind in extra-time. But alongside the mental strength of the team, the professional staff complimented the players on their ability and the fact that they felt that Israel was better than Brazil throughout the game despite the two goals it conceded. If there are usually a few prominent players who receive compliments, this time the team emphasized that all the players who participated in the game deserve the most compliments for the ability they displayed against players of the highest level. "There are just good players on this team," one Premier League coach tried to explain the secret of success. "The truth is that many of them are surprising, I have no doubt that most if not all of them will play next season in the first two divisions."
Throughout the years, Israeli football has been known for its weaknesses in the field of physical fitness, and for its low mental breaking threshold. Ofir Haim's team continues to shatter these stigmas time and time again. In both Euro 2022 and the current World Cup, the national team proves that it is precisely in these two parameters that it is strongest.
Before extra-time, Haim gathered his players and spurred them on. "Look at the Brazilians, they're more tired than us, they're all there in treatment. Everything is now in our heads, and the game will be decided on that." The coach even demanded that his players not take their foot off the gas. "Decide you're running like you did in the beginning — and we're beating them," he told them. Haim knew exactly what he was talking about. Although in the first minute of extra time the team conceded a goal, the coach shouted to his players on the pitch that the Brazilians were still more tired and that it was possible to get back into the game.
For the country, on behalf of the players. Ofir Haim celebrates (Photo by Getty Images, ANDRES LARROVERE/AFP)
In general, the professional staff of the national team continues to reap compliments from the opposing teams as well. In addition to Ofir Haim and Bonnie Ginzburg, assistant coaches Eyal Gidron and Itai Mordechai are also highly regarded for their work in the Association, especially in the national team. Fitness coaches Ofer Eckstein and Udi Ben-Simhon, analyst Noam Levy and goalkeeping coach Guy Salomon also receive huge compliments, and the latter receives praise for his personal work with goalkeeper Tomer Sarfati.
The team emphasizes that a Frenchman who plays in the youth league and did not get enough opportunities in Maccabi Netanya's senior team, was quite anonymous compared to many players in the team who are already familiar to Premier League fans. So it was important to instill in him a belief that he can show what he is worth even at the highest levels - which has been happening in a big way so far in Argentina.
Even before the game, the State of Israel woke up to a particularly difficult day after the attack on the Egyptian border in which three IDF soldiers were murdered. The team woke up a few hours after the news in light of the time difference, and realized that the burden on their shoulders was becoming heavier. In a meeting before the game, Haim told his players: "There was an attack and this is a difficult moment in Israel. The country hurts and the mood is low, a lot of people will see us at the game and that requires us to lift the mood for the country. We have a mission to lift the mood a little and bring some joy on this day as well. That's the commitment we have."
The third goal scorer, Dor Turgeman, also dedicated the victory goal to the murdered, and in general after the game there was a feeling that the team had met the task and managed to raise national morale after a particularly sad and difficult day. After the game, the players returned to the hotel and participated in a meal with their families, which has already become a tradition in Argentina.
Dor Turgeman's Dedication
Tomorrow, the team is expected to take off back to Buenos Aires, where they began their journey in the current tournament. This time, the team tends to stay in nearby La Plata, where the semi-finals will take place, and save a 50-minute drive to the stadium on match day.
- Israeli football
- Israeli national teams
- Youth team