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Eli Feingold in an interview: "I trust myself and my friends" | Israel Hayom


Highlights: Right-back Eli Feingold is one of the best players at the World Cup in Brazil. The 18-year-old is a member of Maccabi Haifa's youth team. He is set to face Uruguay in the semi-finals of the tournament tomorrow night. He talks about his connection with his father, the support from Ofir Haim and the chance of him joining the senior team at Maccabiah. "I'm looking for a tailwind," he says of his coach.

The big victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals, the connection with his father, the support from Ofir Haim, the chance of him joining Maccabi Haifa's squad and the meeting against Uruguay tonight • Ilai Feingold, the right defender of the youth team and the man who never stops smiling in a special interview

The first thing you see when you meet Eli Feingold is the smile. From ear to ear, spreading light, filling the room with happiness and optimism. Indeed, the right-back of the under-20 national team has plenty of reasons to smile. A few days ago he cooked up a goal in the quarter-finals of the World Cup against Brazil, he is one of the best in the tournament, tomorrow night Uruguay awaits him in the semi-finals, and most importantly: I met him on a day off.

Ofir Haim and Stav Lemkin's press conference ahead of the World Cup semi-finals | Photo: Dor Hoffman

"I think my fitness is innate," Feingold said when asked how he looked so fresh every game, all the minutes, including 120 against Brazil. Also in the matter of defense and offense, and especially at these levels of high tempo. It's something that's important to me. I try to channel my strength to when I need to go up and when I need to defend more."

Feingold's ability was very significant in the quarterfinals, especially when extra-time opened and Brazil took a 1-2 lead. "All of a sudden you get that goal and you say to yourself, 'Well, what now? You got a goal from Brazil and you had half an hour left." One can assume that no one would have been surprised if this goal had broken Ofir Haim's team, but they waited barely 90 seconds.

Feingold went on the attack, went wide, and Hamza Shibli scored to make it 2-2. "Actually, I was aiming for Dor (Turgeman – D.H.) who made a move to shorten, the goalkeeper got confused and Hamza scored a great goal. In that goal I said, 'Well Halas, let's be focused and take it because we deserved it. I think it's our best game in this tournament."

Feingold battles a Japanese opponent in the group stage, Photo: AP

Israel beat Brazil 2-3 in the final, a game that has already entered the history books of our football, and it is interesting to hear from Feingold what happened before this quarter-final. "Ofir Haim showed us a motivational video about horses. He showed us how a $30,000 horse won a horse race against $30 million, which is about the difference between us and the Brazilian national team in the value of the players. He made it clear to us that the numbers don't matter and it doesn't matter at all that it's Brazil."

With this approach, the team took to the field in San Juan, where they were required to implement the coach's words. "Before the game we were in a frenzy shouting like that, and then their number 8 came up and shouted something in Portuguese. Everyone there started laughing at us, and that's when I realized we were going to take them apart, and I think we showed that on the pitch."

Feingold and friends celebrate, Photo: Reuters

"Crazy about Messi"

Another factor responsible for the 18-year-old right-back's infectious smile is Argentina – the country – and the fact that his father is there these days. "It's a great privilege to be in a football country like this, certainly a few months after they won the World Cup," Feingold admitted. "My dad is someone I have to experience these things with. Me and him with the Messi thing is something special."

As evidence, he has already bought a shirt of the current number 10, and even added a shirt of the previous 10 Maradona. "We're crazy about Messi. My dad sometimes calls me in the middle of the week and tells me he saw a 15-minute clip of Messi with goalies from the 2012 season. Before every game here I look for my father in the stands because it helps me to have someone who gives me a tailwind."

The one who still gives Feingold a tailwind is, of course, coach Ofir Haim. "He's a coach who is more looking for closeness, and that's very convenient for me. You feel that you are more liberated and can make mistakes because it is here for you. It's a coach who gives you the stage and that's something very important to me."

Ofir Haim. Great connection, photo: Reuters

Born in August 2004, Feingold is one of the youngest players in the Israeli squad and one who has not yet made the leap from Maccabi Haifa's youth team to the senior team. "I'm at the most critical stage in my career because it's the transition between youth and adults, a transition I really want. I would love to get a chance to show what I know, but time will take its course."

What may help this transition is the appointment of Masai, his youth coach, as coach of the first team in place of Barak Bahar; "Hopefully he'll give us a little bit of credit, at least in the season opener, but it's not something I'm thinking about right now. We are focused on this tournament.

"We get a lot of support from Maccabi Haifa and that's something that's important to note, also from the fans, and I'm thankful that I'm the best team in the country, a team fighting for the Champions League, but I'll try to work hard and prove that we're there."

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Meanwhile, Feingold's mind is focused on the U-20 World Cup and the semi-final against Uruguay on Thursday. "I'm sure we'll give our 100%, I trust myself and my teammates a lot and I'm a big believer in our team. We need the audience with us and we would love for those who can come." There is no shortage of reasons to want the success of the Israeli team in this tournament, and we can add another important one: so that Eili Feingold will continue to smile.

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Source: israelhayom

All sports articles on 2023-06-07

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