WASHINGTON — Armenia’s national soccer team remains a tough opponent for its groupmates in Euro 2024 qualifying games. After defeating Wales and Latvia last June, the Armenian squad collected six scores and ranked 2nd in Group D of the European qualifying rounds. On September 7, the Armenian team flew to Eskishehir of Turkey.
“If we lose to Turkey, the chances of playing in the European tournament will be lost,” said Oleksandr Petrakov, the Armenian squad’s coach, in the press briefing before the game started. “Collecting six scores out of six during the summer matches by Armenia was a surprise for us,” added German Stefan Kuntz, who is training the Turkish national team.
By the end of the first half of the Turkey-Armenia game, the scoreboard still showed double “zeros”; however, Artak Dashian scored an impressive goal in the 49th minute, making Armenia’s team the winner for almost 40 minutes. At the 79th minute, Lukac Zelarayan was near to doubling the score, but Turkey’s defenders salvaged the situation. Ten minutes later and literally a few minutes before the match ended, Bertug Yildirim leveled the game. The victory slipped out of Armenia’s hands in Eskishehir, with Armenia collecting only one score instead of three that could be critical for qualifying for the play-off games.
On September 11, Armenia hosted Croatia. The former Yugoslavian republic has one of the best soccer teams in the world. It stands sixth in the Fédération internationale de football association (FIFA)’s ranking list, with only Argentina, France, Brazil, England, and Belgium before its name. Croatia took the bronze medal in the 2022 World Cup championship. Before coming to Armenia, it crushed Latvia’s team 5-0. The Armenian squad, however, played with dedication and lost only 0-1. This sole goal, scored in the 13th minute, is still subject to discussions. The referee had to take extra time to check for offside as it appeared Croatia’s defender got a touch too. “After a long VAR ]Video Assistant Referee] review following a corner kick, Kramarić is credited with the goal. He was clearly offside, but the review showed the ball bounced off an Armenian player last. 1-0 Croatia!” reported a Croatian website.
The match in Yerevan’s Republican Stadium was delayed for about a minute as a drone carrying Artsakh’s (Nagorno-Karabakh) state flag flew over the field. The Associated Press reported about this incident, and many mainstream outlets, including The Washington Post, wrote about it.
With a victory against Turkey and a draw against Croatia slipping out of its hands, Armenia now has only theoretical chances to appear in the play-off. The Yerevan squad has to defeat Latvia and Wales in the next two games before its most challenging game against Croatia in Croatia. Along with it, Turkey must lose enough scores in the expected marches so that Armenia can climb back to the second horizontal to be qualified for the European tournament to kick off in Germany’s Munich next June.