Israel crashes out of Euro 2024 soccer qualification with 1-4 loss to Iceland

Playing in Budapest due to Hamas war, Israel will rue a missed opportunity to make it into the tournament finals for first time after taking an early lead and missing a penalty

Israel players react at the end of the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Israel and Iceland, at Szusza Ferenc Stadium in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, March 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Israel players react at the end of the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Israel and Iceland, at Szusza Ferenc Stadium in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, March 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Israel’s hopes of reaching the European Championships for the first time against the background of bloody conflict at home were shattered by a 4-1 defeat to Iceland on Thursday while war-torn Ukraine stayed on course for the finals with a last-gasp comeback.

Due to the ongoing conflict with Hamas, Israel’s tie was switched to Budapest and its hopes of making the finals of any major competition for the first time since the 1970 World Cup enjoyed a confident start.

On the half-hour mark, Daniel Leo Gretarsson was punished for bringing down Eran Zahavi.

The veteran Israeli striker picked himself up to steer his penalty past Hakon Valdimarsson in the Iceland goal.

The lead lasted less than 10 minutes, however, when Genoa’s Albert Gudmundsson curled in a free-kick to equalize.

Just three minutes before half-time Iceland, who made the quarter-finals at the 2016 Euros, were ahead.

Iceland’s Arnor Sigurdsson, left, is tackled by Israel’s Roy Revivo during the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Israel and Iceland, at Szusza Ferenc Stadium in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, March 21, 2024. (AP/Darko Vojinovic)

Gudmundsson swept over a corner and midfielder Arnor Ingvi Traustason was on hand to lash the ball home off a deflection which wrong-footed Israel goalkeeper Omri Glazer.

Israel’s Roy Revivo was sent off in the 73rd minute but his team was then handed a golden chance to equalize when Gudmundur Thorarinsson was penalized for handball.

However, this time Zahavi dragged his penalty wide and Iceland soon made him pay.

In the 83rd minute, Gudmundsson grabbed his second goal of the night after a surging run and then completed his hat-trick as the clock ran down.

“It’s very disappointing. We were one goal ahead and then we conceded two easy goals before half-time,” said Glazer.

“It’s never easy when it’s 11 against 10, and sometimes you miss a penalty, it’s part of football. Then we gambled more. We lost, and we need to look in the mirror at what we did well, and what not so well.”

Israel players react after Iceland’s Albert Gudmundsson scored his side’s third goal during the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Israel and Iceland, at Szusza Ferenc Stadium in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, March 21, 2024. (AP/Darko Vojinovic)

Iceland will now face Ukraine on Tuesday with the winner to claim a spot in this summer’s finals in Germany.

“We were lacking goals earlier in qualification last year, and now we have Albert Gudmundsson back, and he showed that he’s a class player,” said Iceland coach Age Hareide.

Ukraine’s hopes of making it to successive Euros were kept alive after a dramatic and very late come-from-behind 2-1 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Zenica.

Defender Amar Dedic unleashed a powerful drive just before the hour mark with the ball deflected into his own goal by the unfortunate Mykola Matviyenko to give Bosnia the lead.

However, two goals inside four minutes in the dying exchanges gave Ukraine victory.

In the 85th minute, substitute Roman Yaremchuk scored from a fine cross by Yukhym Konoplia to level the tie.

Artem Dovbyk, whose goals have driven Girona closer to a Champions League place in Spain, headed Ukraine’s winner with two minutes left.

“Our players wanted to win and attacked as much as they could,” said Ukraine coach Serhiy Rebrov.

Wales to face Poland

Wales will face Poland for a place in the finals after powering to a 4-1 win against Finland in Cardiff.

Rob Page’s side stormed into a two-goal lead thanks to strikes from David Brooks and Neco Williams.

Teemu Pukki reduced the deficit just before the break, but Brennan Johnson and Daniel James netted in the second half to keep Wales’ dreams alive.

Wales’ Neco Williams, left, celebrates after scoring his team second goal during the UEFA European Championship play-off match against Finland at the Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Thursday, March 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Bidding to reach a third consecutive European Championship, Wales will take on Poland in the play-off final in Cardiff on Tuesday.

Poland, bidding to play in a fourth successive Euros, crushed Estonia 5-1 with goals from Przemyslaw Frankowski, Piotr Zielinski, Jakub Piotrowski, Nicola Zalewski and Sebastian Szymanski.

Estonia had to play with 10 men for more than an hour after Maksim Paskotsi was red-carded for a foul on Zalewski.

Georgia, looking to make the finals of a major tournament for the first time, defeated Luxembourg 2-0 in Tbilisi.

Both goals came from Budu Zivzivadze who also hit the woodwork. Georgia was without Napoli star striker Khvicha Kvaratskhelia who was suspended.

It will face 2004 champions Greece next Tuesday for a place in the German showpiece.

The Greeks were far too strong for Kazakhstan in Athens, winning 5-0 with four of the goals coming in the opening 40 minutes for Gus Poyet’s team.

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