The UEFA European Championship, or Euro, is one of the most prestigious and competitive football tournaments in the world. It features 24 teams from the European continent, divided into six groups of four. The top two teams from each group, along with the four best third-placed teams, advance to the knockout stage, where they compete for the title of the European champion.
The qualification process for the Euro 2024, which will be hosted by Germany, began in March 2023 and will end in November 2023. There are 10 groups of five or six teams each, and the winners and runners-up of each group will qualify directly for the final tournament. The remaining three spots will be decided by a play-off round, involving the 10 best teams from the UEFA Nations League that have not already qualified.
One of the most intriguing and dramatic groups in the qualification campaign is Group G, which consists of Switzerland, Romania, Israel, Kosovo, and the Faroe Islands. Switzerland, ranked 12th in the world by FIFA, are the clear favourites to top the group and secure their fifth consecutive appearance in the Euro. Romania, ranked 37th, are expected to challenge them for the second spot, while Israel, ranked 85th, and Kosovo, ranked 114th, are the dark horses that could cause some upsets. The Faroe Islands, ranked 107th, are the minnows of the group and have little chance of qualifying.
The group stage of the qualification campaign has been full of twists and turns, with no team able to establish a clear lead or dominance. Switzerland have been inconsistent and vulnerable, dropping points against Romania, Kosovo, and Israel. Romania have been resilient and determined, but have also struggled to score goals and win games. Israel have been surprising and impressive, beating Switzerland and Romania at home and drawing with them away. Kosovo have been spirited and ambitious, but have also been unlucky and inexperienced, losing some close games and conceding late goals. The Faroe Islands have been brave and defiant, but have also been outclassed and overwhelmed, losing all their games so far.
The most crucial and dramatic game of the group stage took place on Wednesday, November 15, 2023, in Budapest, Hungary. The game was between Switzerland and Israel, and it was the penultimate match for both teams. Switzerland needed a win to secure their qualification and avoid a nervy final game against Kosovo. Israel needed a draw or a win to keep their hopes alive and set up a decisive final game against Romania. The stakes were high and the tension was palpable.
The game was a tight and tense affair, with both teams playing cautiously and defensively. Switzerland had more possession and chances, but Israel defended well and threatened on the counter-attack. The deadlock was broken in the 64th minute, when Switzerland’s star striker Haris Seferovic scored with a powerful header from a corner. The goal seemed to settle the nerves of the Swiss and unsettle the Israelis, who looked deflated and desperate. Switzerland looked in control and on course to qualify, while Israel looked doomed and out of contention.
However, in the dying minutes of the game, a dramatic twist occurred. In the 88th minute, Israel’s substitute striker Tomer Hemed flicked on a long ball to his fellow substitute Moanes Dabour, who crossed it to the far post, where another substitute, Shon Weissman, was waiting. Weissman, who had only been on the pitch for four minutes, volleyed the ball past the Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer and into the net, sparking wild celebrations among the Israeli players and fans. The goal was a stunning and stunning equaliser, and it changed the complexion of the game and the group.
The equaliser put Switzerland’s qualification on ice, as they now had to wait for the result of the Romania-Kosovo game later that day. If Romania won, they would overtake Switzerland and qualify directly, while Switzerland would have to face Kosovo in a must-win game. If Romania drew or lost, Switzerland would still qualify, but only as the runners-up, while Romania would have to face Israel in a play-off. The equaliser also kept Israel’s qualification hopes alive, as they now had a chance to qualify directly if they beat Romania and Switzerland lost to Kosovo, or to qualify via the play-off if they beat Romania and Switzerland drew or won against Kosovo.
The game ended 1-1, and the Swiss and Israeli players and fans were left in suspense and anticipation. The late equaliser was a dramatic and decisive moment in the group, and it set up a thrilling and tense final round of games. The fate of the four teams in the group was still undecided, and the Euro 2024 qualification was still on the line.