EURO 2024 QUALIFYING
What issues are UEFA facing to finish the Euro 2024 qualifying group stage on time?
Several fixtures, including Belgium vs Sweden, must be rearranged. The Republic of Ireland, meanwhile, must lose their last game to have a chance of qualifying.
Once the October international break comes to an end, UEFA will only have one window left to finish the group stage of Euro 2024 qualifying. However, that could prove tricky due to different incidents which have caused matches to be postponed around Europe, the latest of which was the half-time abandonment of Belgium vs Sweden following a fatal terrorist attack in Brussels in the hours before the game.
Left distraught by the deaths of two of their supporters in the Belgian capital, Sweden have no intention of returning to play the second half of the fixture. UEFA regulations state that unfinished matches must be completed as soon as possible and under the same conditions, which is no longer possible with the Swedish team having left Brussels and many players already back at their clubs.
Why UEFA want Belgium vs Sweden replayed
UEFA wants the match to be played to a finish at all costs, with plenty still at stake. The outcome could determine whether Belgium finish first or second in the group (and are seeded or not in the final tournament) and whether Sweden, who can’t finish in the top two, earn a play-off spot.
The result could also have a direct impact on other groups, teams, the play-offs and the draw for the finals, which is due to take place on 2 December. By then, 21 of the 24 qualifiers will - theoretically - be known. The play-offs, which are to be played in March, will determine the final three participants.
Israel playing Euro 2024 catch-up due to Hamas conflict
The second issue concerns Israel’s conflict with Hamas, which forced the postponement of October qualifiers against Switzerland and Kosovo. The first of those two fixtures has been rescheduled for 15 November, which means the Israelis will play a triple header in the next window, also facing Romania and Andorra. The match with Kosovo has yet to be rearranged but could also be crucial, with Israel, Romania and Switzerland all fighting to qualify automatically for Euro 2024.
Why the Republic of Ireland must lose to the Netherlands
The intricacies of the playoffs, with many participants qualifying as a result of their performance in the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League, also mean the Republic of Ireland find themselves in the bizarre situation of likely needing to lose against the Netherlands on 18 November to have any chance of going to Germany.
Their only hope of qualification is through the play-offs and they require the Dutch to qualify directly ahead of Greece to possibly free up a play-off spot, so losing in Amsterdam would be in their best interests. How UEFA will determine whether any match-fixing has taken place in that game or not is anyone’s guess...