The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has announced that Israel’s next two home matches in the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign will be played in Hungary, due to the security situation in the country. Israel is currently in a three-way race with Switzerland and Romania for the top two spots in Group I, which would secure automatic qualification for the tournament in Germany next summer.
Israel was scheduled to host Switzerland on November 15 and Romania on November 18 at the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, but UEFA postponed all matches in the country earlier this month because of the Israel-Hamas conflict. The Pancho Arena in Felcsut, near the home village of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, will host the relocated matches.
Israel faces hectic schedule in November
The decision to move Israel’s home matches means that the team will have to play four games in 10 days in November, including a rescheduled away match against Kosovo on November 12. Kosovo was also unable to host Israel on October 15 due to the security situation.
Israel is currently third in Group I with 11 points from six matches, behind Romania (13 points) and Switzerland (12 points). The team has never qualified for a European Championship since joining UEFA as a member in 1994. If Israel fails to finish in the top two, it will have a second chance to qualify through the playoffs in March, thanks to its performance in the Nations League last year.
Hungary becomes a regular venue for UEFA matches
Hungary has been a frequent destination for UEFA-organized matches since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the international football calendar. The country has hosted several games involving teams that could not play at home due to health or security reasons, such as Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine.
Hungary also co-hosted the Euro 2020 tournament with 11 other countries, and was the only venue that allowed full capacity crowds. The country’s football federation has been praised by UEFA for its cooperation and hospitality, but also criticized by some human rights groups for its stance on LGBTQ+ issues.