Israel make Swiss wait for Euro 2024 qualification

Shon Weissman (L) grabbed Israel a point (Attila KISBENEDEK)

Switzerland were made to wait to secure qualification for Euro 2024 as Shon Weissman’s 88th-minute strike salvaged a 1-1 draw for Israel on Wednesday, in a match moved to Hungary due to the war between Israel and Hamas.

Ruben Vargas scored a header in the 36th minute to put the Swiss on track to seal the three points they needed to qualify from Group I with two games to spare, but they could not hold on.

Coach Murat Yakin’s Switzerland could still book their place in Germany for Euro 2024 with a win against visitors Kosovo in Basel on Saturday, before they travel to Bucharest to face Romania on Tuesday.

“It’s the third time now that we have conceded very late on,” Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer told Swiss broadcaster RTS.

“In the second half we lost our organisation, we were a bit wild… we were not calm on the ball. And they had chances.

“Now we have two finals and we will do everything we can.”

Israel, now playing home matches in Hungary due to the nation’s war against Hamas in Gaza, still likely need to beat Romania on Saturday to remain in contention for a top-two finish and automatic qualification.

The match took place on neutral territory in Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s home village of Felcsut, 35 kilometres west of Budapest.

The Pancho Arena, completed in 2014, is the home stadium of Hungarian top-flight side Puskas Akademia. The 3,900-seat venue’s capacity is more than double the village’s population.

Orban and several hundred Israel supporters were in the stadium, along with a small number of Switzerland fans.

Israel fans held up placards showing the faces of hostages missing since the Hamas attack on October 7 and a minute of silence was held before kick-off.

– Late leveller –

Switzerland, knowing victory would send them to a sixth straight major tournament, made a fast start.

The Swiss had the ball in the net in the 20th minute when AC Milan striker Noah Okafor blasted a shot against the crossbar, and Vargas headed in the rebound but fouled his marker in doing so.

Augsburg midfielder Vargas headed in to put his side ahead, before then also striking the crossbar himself.

Israel belatedly improved in the second half, with Anan Khalaili’s header coming back off the bar.

In the 52nd minute, Cedric Zesiger handled the ball in the box but a VAR check denied Israel a penalty.

Substitute forward Weissman salvaged a point for Israel with two minutes of normal time remaining, with his goal being confirmed after a VAR check.

Things then turned from bad to worse for Switzerland as Edimilson Fernandes was sent off in injury time for a reckless studs-up sliding tackle on Israel’s Dor Turgeman.

Fernandes will be suspended for the game against Kosovo.

Israel had been set to host Switzerland in Tel Aviv on October 12 but the match was postponed due to the war between Israel and Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas in response to the Palestinian group’s October 7 attacks, which officials say killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw about 240 hostages taken to Gaza.

The Hamas government in Gaza says Israel’s ensuing aerial bombardment and ground offensive has killed 11,500 people, also mostly civilians, including thousands of children.



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