Wide boys can help Brit pack strike gold


The Open football squad completed preparations with a 3-1 defeat against Welsh Champions TNS at Lilleshall.

Having beaten Bishops Stortford and drawn against Wingate & Finchley, Jonathan Kestenbaum’s troops held their own against the Champions League qualifiers with a strike from Mitch Hahn, who maintained his goal-a-game record, hauling them level.

TNS scored twice in the closing stages before GB maintained their 100 per cent record in the post-match penalty shootout.

Ahead of Tuesday’s flight to Israel, GB captain Sam Sloma, 26, was in confident mood. “So far, the squad looks good. Everyone is looking sharp, happy and positive to starting the tournament.

“We have a good blend of experience and fresh energy. This squad has a bit more width and attacking prowess than last time. We’ve got a few young lads with pace and that could be a big benefit.

“It’s a big honour to captain the team and I’m looking forward to it. It adds a couple of extra dimensions for me and will give me a greater sense of achievement if we do something.”

He enjoyed a successful period after the 2005 Games. He left Wingate for East Thurrock before joining Dagenham & Redbridge. He helped them win the Conference and into the Football League for the first time.

Sloma said: “The past four years have been unbelievable personally. I played more than 40 games in the league and it was a fantastic experience.” Striker Paul Hakim is looking forward to the Maccabiah, despite coming out of full-time football. He recently left St Albans City after scoring 18 goals last season to pursue a career in football betting. Looking ahead to his third Games, Hakim, 27, said: “It’s a similar set up to 2005. There have been no drastic changes but Les brings a bit more experience to the table. Our preparation has been meticulous.”

Seeking revenge against Brazil who sent GB home last time, Hakim said: “We’ve got to be disciplined and take care of the ball, bringing others into the game.

“We’ve got to be tactically cute and not play a traditional bullish British direct style. We’re not afraid of anyone in the group. Argentina and France didn’t do that well four years ago.”

Defender Michael Sacks is relishing the prospect of his first senior Maccabiah. He competed in the junior football category in 2005 and has two European Maccabi Games under his belt.

He said: “It will be very exciting to test myself against the best Jewish footballers in the world. There’s a great atmosphere in the squad and I can’t wait to get out there.”

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