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EURO 2024 qualifiers

Swiss scramble to salvage draw with Belarus

Switzerland forward Cedric Itten (centre) tries to dash through for the ball ahead of Belarus defender Sergei Politevich. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Switzerland left it late to rescue a 3-3 draw at home to Belarus on Sunday and save some face as captain Granit Xhaka won a record-equalling 118th cap.

The Swiss started the match at the top of Group I looking to take a step closer to reaching Euro 2024 at the Kybunpark in St. Gallen, against a team they had beaten 5-0 to kick off their qualifying campaign.

Murat Yakin’s side are 14th in the FIFA rankings, while Belarus sit in 105th place.

But the Euro 2020 quarter-finalists fluffed their lines as they blew a 1-0 lead and then found themselves 3-1 down with just minutes to go.

Veteran midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri — himself winning his 117th cap — scored the opener in the 28th minute with a left-foot curling effort from just outside the penalty box.

Belarus equalised in the 61st minute with a stooping header from Max Ebong.

The visitors took the lead eight minutes later with another header, Denis Polyakov nodding in this time from a corner.

And the more than 17,000 spectators in the Kybunpark were stunned when substitute Dmitri Antilevski struck a third for Belarus in the 84th minute, with the goal given the green light after a VAR check.

Leaving it late

Switzerland went on the attack and Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji tapped in from a Shaqiri free-kick in the 89th minute to start the last-ditch comeback for the hosts.

Then a minute later, substitute Zeki Amdouni saved Switzerland’s blushes, scrambling the equaliser after Belarus failed to clear the Burnley striker’s header.

The result opens the door for Romania to overtake Switzerland in the group, though the top two go through to next year’s finals in Germany.

Before the match, Xhaka was honoured for winning his 118th cap, with the 31-year-old Bayer Leverkusen midfielder now level at the top with 1980s midfielder Heinz Hermann, who had held the record alone for 36 years.

Switzerland had been due to play Israel in Tel Aviv on Thursday but the match was postponed to November 15 due to the war between Israel and Hamas. 

They then host Kosovo in Basel on November 18 and complete their campaign away to Romania in Bucharest three days later.

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