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regular-article-logo Thursday, 29 February 2024

European Championship: Israel, Ukraine could fight for one slot

Two national teams were put on the same qualifying path in Thursday’s playoff draw, with a possible deciding match in March

AP/PTI Nyon Published 25.11.23, 08:49 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File picture

Israel and Ukraine, two countries currently fighting wars, could face each other for a spot at next year’s European Championship.

The two national teams were put on the same qualifying path in Thursday’s playoff draw, with a possible deciding match in March.

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Israel were paired with Iceland, while Ukraine will face Bosnia-Herzegovina in the playoff semi-finals. The 12 playoff teams will play the six semifinal matches on March 21, 2024. All three finals are scheduled for March 26.

Neither Israel nor Ukraine can currently host games at home because of the wars. If they both advance to the playoff final, they could meet in a neutral country.

In the other playoff brackets, Wales will host Finland and the winners will then host Poland or Estonia, and Georgia or Luxembourg host either Euro 2004 champions Greece or Kazakhstan.

European football governing body Uefa allocated home advantage for the finals in the three brackets. The 12 teams entered the playoffs based on their results and standings in Nations League groups played last year. Their standing in Euro 2024 qualifying groups this year did not affect the seeding for Thursday’s draw.

The winners of the three finals will play at the 24-team Euro 2024 tournament, joining the 20 teams that qualified directly and host Germany.

Israel, who became a Uefa member in 1994, have never qualified for Euro.

Ukraine are back in the playoffs for a major tournament after losing at Wales 1-0 last year in a match for a spot at the World Cup in Qatar. That match had to be delayed after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Ukraine are “the strongest” of the 12 teams in the playoff semi-finals, Bosnia coach Savo Milosevic said.

“It’s special to play against Ukraine in these days but it’s also special because I think among these 12 teams maybe they are the best,” Milosevic said.

Ukraine dropped into the playoffs after a 0-0 draw with Italy on Monday.

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