Luzon to leave after U21 finals

Israel head coach Guy Luzon surprised his players on the eve of the Uefa European under-21 Championships by announcing that he would leave his post to join Standard Liege after the competition.

Israel kicks off the tournament against Norway in Netanya next week as rank outsiders.

The hosts line up in a Group A, which includes Italy and England, but the spotlight has fallen on Luzon who broke the news that he will be leaving for Belgium in a press conference, a move that was later condemned by the Israel Football Association.

Liege have qualified for the Europa League and there is already speculation that Luzon will sign the Israel under-21 squad’s biggest stars – midfielder and captain Nir Biton from MS Ashdod, Maccabi Haifa midfielder Eyal Golasa, Maccabi Petah Tikva midfielder Marouan Kabah and Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Moanes Dabour.

Luzon was keen to play down his move, preferring to focus on what is the most high-profile sporting event Israel has ever hosted.

He believes the home support, as well as the conditions, could unsettle some of Europe’s big guns and is confident he can lead Israel into the semi-finals.

"I've chosen players with character,” said Luzon. “They are strong enough to do the job and they will do it.

"I can promise that we will give our best and hope that this will be is enough."

There was no place in the squad for former Barcelona and Manchester City star Gai Assulin, who was the only surprise omission. Of the 23 players, all are with Israeli clubs, except Omri Altman who has signed a two-year contract extension at Fulham.

Other key players include Hapoel Tel Aviv goalkeeper Boris Kleyman and Maccabi Haifa defender Taleb Twatha.

Guy Levy is the only manager to steer an Israeli under-21 team to a major finals by right. He said: “As well as home advantage, the fact that the players appear regularly in Ligat Ha’Al makes them very experienced for their age."

Among the stars in Israel will be Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Jonjo Shelvey for England and Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea of Spain.

As of the start of the week, the Israel FA said that 115,000 tickets had been sold for the matches in Jerusalem, Netanya, Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv.

SQUAD:

Goalkeepers
Boris Klieman, Barak Levy, Eric Yanko

Defenders
Taleb Tawatha, Ofir Davidzada, Ofer Verta, Eli Dasa, Ben Vahaba, Edi Gotlieb, Omri Ben-Harush, Ido Levy,

Midfielders
Ofir Kriaf, Nir Biton, Eyal Golasa, Marwan Kabha, Sinitiyahu, Salalik Zaguri, Mohammed Kalibat, Ahad Azam, Omri Altman

Strikers
Or Baruch, Alon Turgeman, Munas Dabbur

Last updated: 10:42am, June 3 2013