Israel is to stage the prestigious UEFA European under-21 Championships beginning on Wednesday attracting fans from around the world, and TV audiences of an anticipated 150 million.

Teams are expected from England, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Norway and Holland. Matches will be played in Tel Aviv, Netanya and Petah Tikvah, with the final at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium on June 18.

The tournament, which attracts football scouts from all over the world, consists of 15 matches. It is going ahead despite major protests by anti-Israel groups.

A number of VIPs are expected including the Italian national team coach Cesare Prandelli, the Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, England manager Roy Hodgson and former star players Gunter Netzer, Lothar Matthaus and Matthias Sammer, as well as politicians from across the continent.

Spain is considered a favourite to retain the crown they won in 2011.