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 Tai 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 Albanian defense couldn’t clear it as the Wolfsberger marksman made no mistake and scored to send Israel up a league in Nations League play as well as put them only two wins away from the upcoming Euros.
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. which takes place next month. Should Israel qualify directly for the 2024 Euros which are slated to be played in Germany, then they 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 they will face some of the top teams in the world which could include Italy, Portugal, Germany and Belgium.
However, next up for the blue-and-white is a friendly in Malta on Tuesday night as Israel will continue to hone their trade as a team going forward. n the same evening, the Israel Under-21 squad will play the second leg of their two legged tie against Ireland for a spot in the Euros after drawing 1-1 in the first game.
“I so much wanted to make everyone so happy just before the Rosh Hashana Holiday,” a beaming Israel coach Alon Hazan said. “We never give up and we won’t be broken. I am so happy for Israeli soccer and this gives me the greatest joy. We have done things that have changed the character of this team and the youngsters are really making an impact.”
“We gave up a gorgeous goal but regardless we stayed level headed and scored to top off this campaign. I never lower my head and we always will keep our spirits up and I am very satisfied that we finished in first place, moved up a league and will play will the Nations League playoffs.”
Shon Weissman also reflected on the win, “I hope that I can continue to play this way going forward and I took part of the leadership role on for the coach. It was amazing to have over 30,000 fans here right before a holiday and I don’t take that for granted.”
Acting captain Eli Dasa looked back at the victory, “It’s so satisfying to have won. It was a great game that saw us comeback after they tied it up late. We won at home in dramatic fashion and you couldn’t ask for anything more than that. We played with a very young lineup and the veterans had to really make sure to lead the team on the pitch which is what we did.”
“We did it all together, we all worked hard for the same goal,” the game winning goal scorer Tai Baribo said. “It was an amazing feeling to score, I didn’t know where to run and I didn’t hear anything or see anything, it was incredible. You always remember your first goal and it was so important because is sent us to the playoffs and up a league. It was such an amazing feeling.”