Israel’s chances of qualifying for next summer’s Euro 2016 in France took a severe blow on Saturday when they lost to Cyprus 2-1 in Jerusalem.
The loss, coupled with a Bosnia-Herzogovina victory over Wales in Group B, means Israel fell to fourth place. The top two teams in each of the nine groups automatically qualify, as does the best-placed third place team, while the other eight third-place teams will playoff for the next four spots. *[corrected from earlier version]
Israel’s only hope now is to beat Belguim in Brussels in their final game on Tuesday and hope Bosnia-Herzogovina don’t beat Cyprus. Belgium and Wales have clinched the group’s top two spots.
Israel came into the game knowing that a victory would all but guarantee them at least a spot in the third-place playoffs, and even a shot at second place, and dominated most of the first half but failed to connect. The game opened up in the second half. Cypriot Dosa Junior knocked in a deft header from a free kick to open the score in the 58th minute.
Israel rallied back. With their home fans cheering them on, the blues responded with a beautiful kick by Celtic’s Nir Bitton from outside the box in the 76th that beat the Cypriot goalie.
But Cyprus struck right back four minutes later when Jason Demetriou found himself with lots of space in the penalty box and easily beat Israel’s goalie Ofir Marciano.
The only good news for Israel is that their Tuesday opponent Belgium have already qualified and may not field their top 11. Israel will have to win and hope Cyprus beats Bosnia-Herzogovina in their last game to have any hope of finishing third and grabbing one of the eight playoff spots.