Blue-and-white juniors and seniors both celebrate European success

The Under-21 team punched its ticket to the 2023 European Championships while the senior team advanced to the Nations League playoffs for the upcoming 2024 Euros.

Israeli players celebrate at Bloomfield Stadium after Tai Baribo’s late tally gave the blue-and-white a 2-1 victory over Albania in Nations League action. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Israeli players celebrate at Bloomfield Stadium after Tai Baribo’s late tally gave the blue-and-white a 2-1 victory over Albania in Nations League action.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

It was a banner week for Israeli soccer as both the senior squad and the Under-21 team made significant strides for the country’s football future.

The junior team punched its ticket to the 2023 European Championships while the senior side advanced to the Nations League playoffs for the upcoming 2024 Euros.

The Israel Under-21 National Team advanced to the 2023 European Championships after defeating the Republic of Ireland 3-1 on penalties in the second leg of their two-legged tie. Maccabi Tel Aviv keeper Daniel Peretz played hero for the blue-and-white and made three saves in the shootout, plus scoring a spot-kick of his own, to help send Guy Luzon’s squad to next summer’s Euros.

With over 20,000 fans in the stands at Bloomfield Stadium, Israel looked to advance to the exclusive competition after the two squads had drawn 1-1 last week in the first leg, which took place in Ireland.

However, Israel had a tough time breaking down the visitor’s defense throughout the 90 minutes and the additional 30-minute overtime session that sent the contest to the shootout.

Israel's Thai Baribo scores their second goal, UEFA Nations League - Group F - Israel v Albania - Bloomfield Stadium, Tel Aviv, Israel - September 24, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)Israel's Thai Baribo scores their second goal, UEFA Nations League - Group F - Israel v Albania - Bloomfield Stadium, Tel Aviv, Israel - September 24, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

“This is the ultimate happiness and satisfaction that is so hard to experience. It was so dramatic. The national team has been so close over the years and we all said that we will do everything in our power not to miss out on this chance.”

Maccabi Tel Aviv keeper Daniel Peretz

Ireland snatched a 1-0 lead as Peretz allowed the first attempt by, but from that point on the shot-stopper did exactly that and kept out the next three opportunities while, he along with Eden Kartzev and Osher Davida, found the back of the goal to send the blue-and-white to the tournament that will be held in Romania and Georgia next year.

“These are indescribable moments,” said Peretz, who was named the game’s MVP. “This is the ultimate happiness and satisfaction that is so hard to experience. It was so dramatic. The national team has been so close over the years and we all said that we will do everything in our power not to miss out on this chance.”

Luzon also expressed his satisfaction with the accomplishment.

“We deserved to win this game well before the penalties,” the Israeli head coach explained. “We had enough chances to finish the game off, but I was also confident that if we got to penalties we would be fine. I am excited for the players and all of the fans.”

Earlier in the week, Israel defeated Albania 2-1 in dramatic fashion as Tai Baribo’s late second-half, injury-time goal sent the blue-and-white through to the Nations League playoffs for the 2024 European Championships at Bloomfield Stadium.

After a goalless opening 45 minutes, Shon Weisman scored off of a Gaby Kanichowsky cross less than a minute into the second half, but Albania drew even late in the game when Myrto Uzuni volleyed home the equalizer in the 88th minute.

However, Alon Hazan’s squad found the winner via Baribo as the striker scored in the box after a gorgeous passing play between Kanichowsky and Dolev Haziza. The latter delivered the ball into the box, where the Wolfsberger marksman made no mistake and scored to send Israel up a league in Nations League play as well as put it only two wins away from the upcoming Euros.

Nations League playoffs to be held in March 2024

The Nations League playoffs will take place in March 2024 following the regular qualifying tournament that will begin in the Spring of 2023, in which Israel will have a more favorable draw. Should Israel qualify directly for the 2024 Euros, slated to be played in Germany, then it would not have to participate in the playoffs of the Nations League, which is used as a last-chance to advance to the competition.

The next time the Nations League will be played – in 2024/25 for the 2026 World Cup – Israel will be placed in League A, where it will face some of the top teams in the world which could include Italy, Portugal, Germany and Belgium.

Following the victory over Albania, Israel traveled to Malta for a friendly matchup and fell 2-1 playing primarily with an experimental squad that included many players who made their national team debuts.

Bibras Natcho opened the scoring with a 32nd-minute penalty, but two late goals by Alexander Satariano and Ferdinando Apap sent Israel to its first loss against the island nation.