Romania clinches Euro 2024 spot with 2-1 victory over Israel

FELCSUT, Hungary (AP) — Israel lost 2-1 to Romania on Saturday in an emotionally charged European Championship qualifying game it hosted in Hungary because of the war with Hamas.

Romania, which had missed out on the 2020 edition despite being one of the hosts, qualified for Euro 2024 with the win. Israel is assured a playoff spot thanks to its Nations League record.

The Group I match was the last of two “home" games for Israel in Felcsut, a Hungarian village of around 1,900 people.

The games were relocated to Hungary after all matches were canceled in Israel following Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. Israel tied Switzerland 1-1 in its first game in Hungary on Wednesday.

As supporters of the Israeli team arrived at the stadium on Saturday, many chanted slogans and draped Israeli flags over their shoulders. Some staged a demonstration for the hostages still being held by Hamas, raising banners that said, “Men, women, children murdered,” and chanting “Bring them home.”

The war was triggered by Hamas’ attack in southern Israel, in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted some 240 men, women and children. More than 11,500 Palestinians have been killed, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Dannel Morag, 19, said he came to Hungary from his hometown of Ashdod, 15 miles (around 25 kilometers) north of Gaza, just to see the match. He will soon join the Israeli Defense Force and wanted to show support both for the team and his country.

Yuval Nakibli, a 25-year-old from Israel, said she felt it was important to support the Israeli team, adding “We can show what’s really important, and it’s to bring all the hostages home right now and finish that terrible war.”

A series of blue teddy bears with their eyes covered by black bandages were put on some of the seats at Pancho Arena.

Eran Zahavi put Israel ahead with a header two minutes into the match. The visitors rallied with goals by George Pușcaș in the 10th and Ianis Hagi in the 63rd. Romania’s Valentin Mihăilă was sent off in the 85th for a sliding tackle on Israel’s Dor Turgeman.

Israel needed a win to keep alive its chances of automatically qualifying for next year’s tournament in Germany.

Israel stayed third with 12 points from nine matches, five points behind second-place Switzerland and seven behind leader Romania.

Israel next visit Andorra on Tuesday to finish its qualifying campaign.


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