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Israel prepares for Euro 2024 qualifying game at Kosovo amid tight security measures

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Israel coach Alon Hazan wants his team to beat Kosovo in their delayed European Championship qualifying game on Sunday to bring "some happiness to our people.”

It is the first soccer match for Israel since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and the ongoing war in Gaza. It had originally been scheduled for Oct. 15 but was postponed.

The Group I match in Pristina is being held under tight security measures surrounding the Israeli team.

Hazan and captain Eli Dasa said the team felt safe.

“We will do anything we can in order to win this match ... bring some happiness to our people,” Hazan said Saturday.

Israel is third in its group with 11 points after six games. Romania leads with 16 points (eight games) and second-place Switzerland has 15 points (seven games).

Israel has never qualified for a European Championship since fully joining UEFA in 1994, and will now have to play four matches in 10 days.

Hazan expects a tough game with Kosovo, saying that “We have to work very hard if we want to make our wishes (come true).”

Kosovo is fourth in the group with seven points from seven games.

Israel is the most recent country to have recognized Kosovo after Pristina’s Parliament declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

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Semini reported from Tirana, Albania

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer