Baku (Azerbaijan), October 17: Austria on Monday secured their place in Euro 2024 with a 1-0 triumph over Azerbaijan in Baku, guaranteeing a top-two finish in Group F.
Marcel Sabitzer, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder, made a decisive impact by converting a penalty just three minutes after entering as a halftime substitute, earning Austria a spot in their third consecutive European Championship.
Despite a recent 3-2 home defeat against Belgium, Ralf Rangnick’s team rebounded to become one of the eight nations assured of a spot in the 24-team tournament in Germany next year.
The penalty was awarded in the second half when Sabitzer’s free-kick was handled by an Azerbaijan player in the wall. This marked Sabitzer’s fourth goal in qualifying, and his second successful spot-kick in four days, securing the victory as Tural Bayramov missed a late opportunity to equalize for Azerbaijan.
The match ended on a somewhat sour note for Austria as Guido Burgstaller received two yellow cards in stoppage time, resulting in a red card and leaving Austria with 10 men. With a fifth win in seven matches, Austria now sits comfortably 10 points ahead of third-placed Sweden. Sweden will now have to navigate the playoffs to avoid missing out on qualification for the first time since Euro 96.
Austria, tied on 16 points with Belgium but having played an additional game, will conclude their qualifying campaign with an away fixture against Estonia next month.
Euro 2024 qualifier: Belgium vs Sweden abandoned as two Swedes shot dead in Brussels
The Euro 2024 qualifier match between Belgium and Sweden was suspended at halftime and subsequently abandoned following a tragic incident in Brussels earlier on Monday. UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) made this announcement as the terror alert in Belgium was raised to its highest level.
The decision to suspend the match came after an unsettling video emerged on social media in which an individual claimed responsibility for a shooting and declared affiliation with the Islamic State.
UEFA released a statement on its website, citing “security reasons” as the primary cause for halting the game at halftime. Further details are expected to follow in due course.
Swedish players conveyed their apprehension to UEFA, expressing their reluctance to participate in the second half. In a display of sportsmanship and unity, the Belgian team understood the gravity of the situation and concurred with the Swedish players’ decision, as reported by Swedish broadcaster TV6.
At the time of suspension, the match was level with both teams having scored one goal each. Fans from Sweden, who had travelled to support their national team, have been requested to remain in the stadium.
It’s worth noting that Belgium had already secured their place at the Euro 2024 finals, set to be held in Germany next year. In contrast, Sweden faced an insurmountable challenge for qualification, rendering the result of the suspended match moot.
(Agencies/ToI With Reuters inputs)