We don't fear Three Lions, says Luzon

By Simon Griver, November 29, 2012
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Guy Luzon believes Israel has nothing to fear when they take on England at the Euro under-21 Championship finals next year.

The host nation will face Stuart Pearce’s men in the final group game on June 11.

The draw in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night also pitted Israel against Norway (June 5) and Italy (June 8) in the eight-team tournament.

Luzon said: "Having qualified as the host nation, we may be the weakest team in the tournament but we won’t feel inferior.

"In front of our own fans we’ll play an attacking, well organised game and we can surprise England and Italy. Norway are no pushovers either having knocked out France."

Pearce, who led England to a 4-1 victory in a friendly against Israel last September, is taking nothing for granted. He said: “We will have to be at it from the off to beat the very best young teams in Europe if we are to succeed in this tournament.

"We are in with the hosts and they’ll be backed by some great home support. On paper, it might look easy, but it never works that way. We are excited by it."

Matches will be played across four cities - Tel Aviv, Netanya, Jerusalem and Petah Tikva - from June 5-18.

The draw was made by former Israel internationals Avi Nimni and Eli Ohana, who are now under-21 ambassadors.

"The biggest achievement so far is the fact that the tournament is here in Israel," said Nimni.

"Everything else is a bonus and after the draw nothing has changed – Italy, Norway and England are still better teams than us and it will be fantastic to see our players up against them.

"Each and every fan that comes to the games will enjoy two new stadiums [in Netanya and Petah Tivka], happy football and a wonderful country from north to south and east to west.

"From now on, after the draw, people will start to sense things are building up and the hype around the tournament will be bigger."

Ohana believes Israel has a chance to progress to the latter stages. He commented: "It's still hard, but we saw it could have been harder.

"When I look at Group B, with Spain, Germany, Russia and the Netherlands, I feel Group A might be better for Israel. Things are still far from easy but, in a good week with our fans behind us, we might be able to surprise."

IFA chairman Avi Luzon is confident the tournament will be a success.

He said: "I can guarantee that all of us here in Israel are united in one mission: the success of the championship," he said in a speech during the draw ceremony.

"The UEFA European Under-21 Championship is an opportunity for all of us to get to know the stars of today – and the superstars of tomorrow. For all Israeli football fans it is a dream coming true, to be able to enjoy an international event, here in our country, in new and modern stadiums at affordable prices."

Group A: Israel, England, Norway, Italy
Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Russia, Germany

Last updated: 2:48pm, November 29 2012