Euro 2024 Qualifying early roundup: Swiss batter Belarus, Turkey battle past Armenia

Euro 2024 Qualifying early roundup: Swiss batter Belarus, Turkey battle past Armenia
Turkey scored either side of half-time to beat Armenia
Turkey scored either side of half-time to beat Armenia
In a highly-charged affair, Turkey came from a goal behind to beat Armenia in Saturday's early evening Euro 2024 qualifying. Elsewhere, Switzerland hammered Belarus whereas Israel recovered an own goal to draw with Kosovo.

Armenia 1 Turkey 2

Turkey got their UEFA European Championship qualifying campaign off to a flyer after an initial scare, coming from behind to defeat Armenia 2-1 and claim their fifth victory in their last seven away internationals.

In the build-up to the opening Euros qualification fixtures, new Eagles coach Oleksandr Petrakov ultimately failed to convince the country’s leading goalscorer, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, to come out of international retirement and aid the effort to qualify for their first major finals.

That being said, the blow was rapidly softened as his side raced into a shock lead with under 10 minutes played.

Good combination play between Tigran Barseghyan and Kamo Hovhannisyan allowed the latter to get a cross away, which was diverted into his own net by the unfortunate Ozan Kabak in an attempt to prevent Lucas Zelarayan from tapping in.

However, that moment of Armenian elation was soon to be followed by an onslaught from their guests. Turkey’s only other away match resulted in a 2-0 triumph in 2008, and whilst a clean sheet was off the cards, they remained optimistic about a turnaround.

Before the interval they had drawn level through on-fire midfielder Orkun Kokcu, adding a goal for his nation to the 12 he has scored for Eredivisie leaders Feyenoord this campaign.

Collecting the ball from Onur Bulut on the edge of the area, he drilled a shot through three onrushing defenders into the bottom left corner as Arsen Beglaryan in goal watched on.

It all hung in the balance for these neighbouring countries heading into the second half, and would take a moment of magic to snatch victory.

The visitors were motivated by the fact even at this early stage they can not afford to slip up against a side ranked 49 places below in FIFA’s world standings if they wish to qualify for Euro 2024 ahead of Croatia or Wales in their group, and so when the chance arrived on 64 minutes, they took it cleverly.

Enes Unal was fouled just inside his own half by Varazdat Haroyan, and getting up quickly he spotted the run of Kerem Akturkoglu. After the pass the substitute bounded through on goal unopposed and slotted the ball beyond the goalkeeper to flip the game on its head.

Stefan Kuntz cheered on from the sidelines, knowing if his side could hold on it would be a massive first step towards qualifying for the finals in his home country.

The Crescent Moons were made to work for their victory, but the first three points of Group D go home with Turkey, and so too does their 100% win record.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Orkun Kokcu (Turkey)

Check out all the match stats with Flashscore.

Belarus 0 Switzerland 5

Switzerland extended their unblemished record against Belarus to four matches, following a comprehensive 5-0 victory at Stadion Karađorđe in their opening match of the Euro 2024 qualifiers.

Seeking to make it a case of ‘third time lucky’ in their adopted home of Novi Sad, Belarus were millimetres away from an opener within 60 seconds, as the underside of the crossbar denied Vladimir Khvashchinskiy his first goal in 14 matches.

However, it was Switzerland who were ahead at an empty Stadion Karađorđe only a few minutes later, as Renato Steffen was presented with the simple task of slotting the ball home from underneath the woodwork, after Cedric Itten’s initial effort had struck the post.

Widely considered favourites to finish at the summit of Group I, Murat Yakin’s side increased their advantage in the 17th minute, as Steffen doubled his tally for the evening with a second clinical close-range finish.

Switzerland then wrapped up all three points with insulting ease in the 29th minute, as Lugano frontman Steffen sensationally completed his hat-trick with another sweetly-struck strike from inside the area.

Against a Belarus side victorious in only one of their previous eight competitive matches, the second half was merely a training exercise for the visitors, who by now had one eye on their midweek home clash with Israel in Lancy.

But the Swiss still weren’t finished, and added a fourth shortly after the hour mark, as Arsenal midfield general Granit Xhaka got in on the goalscoring party in international red and white for the first time since November 2019.

Leading by example, the Rossocrociati captain then turned provider just three minutes later, exquisitely setting up Zeki Amdouni for his first-ever international strike.

And with the momentum of scoring a maiden goal for his country under the Basel striker’s boots, only the post prevented him from adding a second, on what was a one-sided night for Switzerland in northern Serbia.

The landslide result represents only Switzerland's second victory across their last six away matches, and acts as the ideal tune-up for the next test in Group I of the Euro 2024 qualifiers.

Meanwhile, Belarus remain without a competitive win in 14 matches – in a barren run dating back to March 2021 – meaning that the White Wings' chances of a maiden appearance at a post-Soviet era Euros already look to be in critical danger.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Renato Steffen (Switzerland)

Check out the match stats with Flashscore.

Israel 1 Kosovo 1

A frenetic maiden meeting between Israel and Kosovo ended in a 1-1 draw at the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel-Aviv, with neither side able to kick off their pursuit of a first-ever appearance at a UEFA European Championship in positive fashion.

Kosovo’s new found stability with their 4-3-3 setup frustrated Israel from the outset.

Nevertheless, playing to their strengths, the hosts gradually made headway from the wings, targeting the visitors’ weak points in a bid to open their Group I account on a high note. It took over 20 minutes for Kosovo to actually be threatened, with Shon Weissman skying a shot from 12 yards after Doron Leidner found him loitering in the box.

Despite playing on the back foot for the majority of the half, the Dardanians capitalised on a momentary lapse of concentration and struck the opener, as Milot Rashica’s strong cross from the left forced Israel captain Eli Dasa to fire into his own net.

Manor Solomon immediately fluffed a great chance to level terms before the break, striking a low drive inches wide of the woodwork, much to the dismay of the home faithful.

Dasa was once again cast into the spotlight after the restart by Rashica, who zoomed past the defender before showing great composure to finish, only for his strike to be ruled out after a VAR review.

Minutes after what seemed like a 2-0 lead for Alain Giresse’s outfit, Israel levelled proceedings through a fantastic finish by Dor Peretz into the bottom corner, driving the Bloomfield Stadium wild.

With the contest now wide open, neither side held themselves back from giving it their all in a bid to score the all-important second, but fell short time and again when it mattered the most. Kosovo, and substitute Arber Zeneli in particular, will rue not having made the most of their chances in the final minutes, as they register a third straight draw.

Meanwhile, Israel will take inspiration from the spirited second half showing, which helped extend their unbeaten home run to eight games.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Dor Peretz (Israel)

Check out all the stats from the game with Flashscore.