Israel out of Euro 2024 chase, Ukraine in dramatic fightback

Israel’s midfielder #14 Gavriel Kanichowsky (R) and Iceland’s defender #18 Daniel Leo Gretarsson (L) vie for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifier play-off semi-final football match Israel v Iceland at the Szusza Ferenc Stadium in Budapest, Hungary on March 21, 2024. AFP

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 their 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 equalise.

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

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 were then handed a golden chance to equalise when Gudmundur Thorarinsson was penalised for handball.

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

In the 83rd minute Gudmundsson grabbed his second 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.”

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.

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