Israel's youth team continues to dream. All over the world there is talk about Ofir Haim's team, which eliminated Brazil yesterday with a 2-3 victory in extra-time. A day after the great victory, which will enter the history books of Israeli football, the coach and three of his players, Stav Lemkin, Ilai Madmon and Tomer Sarfati, appeared for a press conference from Argentina, in which they promised that they had not had the last word in the World Cup.
"I am a big believer in these players and they are the ones who make me believe that anything is possible," said Haim, "Wherever I have not coached, the connection with the players is important to me. We are also in touch outside of training hours. A coach needs to know the player intimately."
Ofir Haim celebrates with Anan Halaili,
"My children Gal and Shai are on their way to Argentina and this is very important to me and excites me. My son Or saw 120 minutes of football for the first time in his life, usually he gives up after 25 minutes, and he said he was proud of me and I was happy."
Asked who he would rather meet in the semi-finals, USA or Uruguay, he said: "I really don't care who wins, it's two different styles. We will do everything to qualify no matter who we are against."
Haim was asked about statistically few players progressing from the youth team to the senior team and whether he believes that will change in this team: "I hope very much. One of my goals is to get as many players as possible out of this team for the senior team. I believe that at least six will be able to integrate, in the end that is our main goal."
The Israeli national team celebrates against Brazil, Photo: AP
Captain Ilai Madmon, who missed a penalty against Brazil, said: "As soon as the final whistle came, I forgot I missed a penalty. At the beginning we only thought about the eighth, but in our rooms we aspired to go as far as possible."
Hapoel Tel Aviv defender Stav Lemkin was asked about the great support they receive and said: "We are not surprised by the support, we also felt the support at the Euros, but we are surprised by what is happening here in Argentina, with all the crowd here that comes and supports us."
Goalkeeper Tomer Sarfati added: "It's not taken for granted by the crowd here who come and support us. We're not concentrating on next season, we've got a semi-final on our heads."
Captain Eli Madmon (right) and defender Stav Lemkin look for history, photo: Courtesy of Assi Kieffer, Israel Football Association
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Sarfati was asked about the playing minutes he and his teammates would get as seniors, if any, and said: "Obviously I think everyone here deserves it. I hope everyone sees this tournament and gives us more."
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