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Israel's national women's soccer team advanced yesterday to the qualifying round of the 2009 Women's European Championships with a convincing 5-2 victory over Bosnia Herzegovina in the final game of the preliminary tournament in Slovenia.

Israel needed only a point against Bosnia-Herzegovina to win Group 2, and the victory ensured Alon Shraier's side would earn the chance to play Europe's top-ranked nations in competition for the first time. Silvia-Sima Gian struck for Israel after 12 minutes and Sabit Shenar doubled the lead midway through the first half. Bosnian captain Sabina Pehic pulled one back in the 27th minute but Shenar struck again before the break. Amela Fetahovic gave the home side hope, but in the last 10 minutes Shenar took her personal tally to four in the match and six in the qualifying tournament.

Israel ended the tournament with three wins out of three, beating Latvia and Armenia in the opening encounters.

The draw for the qualifying tournament, which will be held on December 13, will divide the 30 contenders into six groups of five teams.

Finland will qualify automatically for the finals as hosts, and will be joined by the top team in each group, plus the winners of five play-offs in October 2008 involving the six pool runners-up and four third-placed sides with the best record against the teams finishing first, second and fourth.

Israel Football Association chairman Itche Menachem, who has worked hard over the past two years to promote the women's game in Israel, was naturally delighted yesterday.

"This is a wonderful achievement for women's soccer in Israel." he said. "I am delighted that, after I have been advocating massive investment in the game, we are finally seeing the results. Israeli soccer is coming along in leaps and bounds; we have seen it with the Under-21 team and I am convinced that we are on the right track. Over the past two years, the women's national team has improved beyond recognition and is now very close to the level of Europe's top teams. I am sure the girls will continue to play well and to succeed and, hopefully, will qualify for the European Championships. The professional staff is excellent, the players are the best we have ever had and we will do everything we can to provide them with the tools they need to continue their success."
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