Euro Cup 2024 Hungary secured a 2-2 draw and qualified for their third consecutive European Championship in a match overshadowed by violent clashes outside an empty stadium in Bulgaria. On Thursday, Bulgarian fans engaged in disturbing acts, hurling makeshift bombs, stones, and plastic bottles at the police.
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In response to trash cans being set ablaze in Sofia, the capital, law enforcement used a water cannon. Reports from local media indicated several protesters suffered injuries. The unrest stemmed from the dissatisfaction of thousands of Bulgarian supporters with the management of the Bulgarian football federation.
They attributed the national team's poor performance to the federation's leadership. Adding to the frustration was the decision to play the match against Hungary in an empty stadium. The Bulgarian national team had not qualified for a major tournament in almost two decades and was reeling from recent losses to Albania in a friendly and Lithuania in a qualifying match.
These defeats prompted fans to organize a nationwide protest, demanding the resignation of officials. The clash between Bulgarian fans and the police occurred during the Euro 2024 qualifier between Bulgaria and Hungary, played behind closed doors in Sofia.
The demonstration, initially a peaceful protest against the management of the national football union, escalated into violence. The bitter dispute between the Bulgarian Football Union's leadership and soccer fans across the Balkan country cast a shadow over the European soccer qualifier.
Violence Erupts in Sofia During Euro Cup 2024 Bulgaria vs. Hungary Match
Riot police surround a blazing police van as clashes erupt between Bulgarian fans and law enforcement during the closed-door Euro 2024 match between Bulgaria and Hungary in Sofia on Thursday, November 16, 2023.
The streets of the capital, Sofia, witnessed thousands of Bulgarian football supporters protesting the management of the national football union, with the demonstration taking a violent turn. Referee Daniel Stefanski issues a red card to a Bulgarian player at the Vasil Levski National Stadium during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group G qualifying match between Bulgaria and Hungary.
Intense on-field action unfolds as Hungary's Dominik Szoboszlai and Bulgaria's Filip Krastev and Aleks Petkov vie for the ball in this Euro 2024 Group G qualifying soccer match.
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Hungary's players jubilate following the scoring of the opening goal in the Euro 2024 Group G qualifying soccer match against Bulgaria at the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Before the UEFA Euro 2024 Group G qualifying soccer match between Bulgaria and Hungary, security forces clash with Bulgarian fans outside the vacant Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia. On November 16 (Reuters), Hungary secured a spot in the Euro 2024 finals with a match to spare.
Thanks to a last-minute own goal by Alex Petkov, resulting in a 2-2 draw against Bulgaria in their qualifying Group G. This outcome propelled Hungary to the top of the group, amassing 15 points from seven games and establishing an insurmountable four-point lead over third-placed Montenegro.
The initial lead for Hungary was achieved through Martin Adam's close-range header, capitalizing on a free kick delivered by captain Dominik Szoboszlai from the right after 10 minutes.
Hungary Secures Euro 2024 Finals Berth Despite Late Challenge from Bulgaria
Despite Marco Rossi's squad appearing poised to double their lead, Bulgaria seized an opportunity, and Spas Delev's 24th-minute strike into the top right corner levelled the score at 1-1. The hosts faced adversity just before halftime, receiving red cards for Valentin Antov and Ilia Gruev, although VAR intervention reversed the latter decision, keeping Bulgarian hopes alive for a comeback.
In the early stages of the second half, Hungary also saw a red card, as Milos Kerkez was sent off. The 78th minute brought a significant setback for Hungary when Kiril Despodov converted a penalty, granting Bulgaria a 2-1 lead. As Hungary teetered on the brink of their first defeat in a year, the game took a dramatic turn in the 7th minute of stoppage time.
Alex Petkov's own goal from a corner secured a 2-2 draw and propelled Hungary into their third consecutive European Championship finals. Meanwhile, Montenegro clinched a 2-0 victory at home against Lithuania, thanks to goals from Edvin Kuc and Stevan Jovetic. Hungary is set to host Montenegro on Sunday euro Cup 2024.
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With the conclusion of group qualifying on the road to Euro 2024, 21 of the 24 participating teams in the tournament in Germany next summer are now known. The remaining three spots will be determined through playoffs, with paths established based on the final positions in the 2022 UEFA Nations League.
Pathway Playoff Developments and Manchester United Ownership Shift
Only two teams from that pathway needed a playoff, namely Poland and Wales, but we required four. Consequently, the first-placed country from League D, Estonia, was included in the League A path. In the Euro Cup 2024, The League A path was then finalized with a team from League B, resulting in five nations from League B participating in the playoffs—four by right and one to fill up League A.
Bosnia and Herzegovina and Israel emerged victorious in their respective UEFA Nations League groups and will retain their places in League B. This leaves Finland, Iceland, or Ukraine to move up to the League A playoff and complete the lineup. A draw is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. UK / 6 a.m. ET to determine this outcome.
In other news, the anticipation of Manchester United fans for a fresh start following the Glazer family's announcement a year ago that they were open to selling the club has taken a different turn. Instead of a complete sale, Sir Jim Ratcliffe's minority investment is expected to be formally announced within the next week.
The British billionaire, who serves as the chairman and CEO of the chemical company INEOS, is set to invest approximately £1.3 billion for a 25% stake in the club. This marks the first significant ownership shake-up since the Glazers' takeover in 2005.
The response from most supporters ranges from disappointment and frustration with the Glazers staying put, given their unpopularity over nearly two decades, to a hopeful outlook that this move might signal the beginning of a new era.
Ratcliffe's Strategic Approach to Manchester United's Future and Stadium Transformation
While the Glazers will maintain their majority ownership, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS, drawing from their football experience at OGC Nice in France and FC Lausanne-Sport in Switzerland, are poised to exert influence over the sporting aspects of the business.
Addressing concerns about the stadium and training ground is a feasible task but requires both time and financial investment. Initial indications suggest Ratcliffe is prepared to inject approximately £250 million in addition to the £1.3 billion for his stake, sparking some apprehension.
United has already explored upgrades for Old Trafford, with estimated costs ranging from £800 million to £2 billion depending on the proposed plan. While Ratcliffe's initial investment is substantial, it accounts for only a third of the minimum amount deemed necessary by United.
Although he has virtually ruled out constructing a new stadium, Ratcliffe aims to expand Old Trafford's capacity from 76,000 to 90,000, a venture with estimated costs in the billions. The second issue revolves around recruitment and is more intricate in the Euro Cup 2024. Following a meeting with Ratcliffe and his team in March, United executives left with the impression of having impressed the British billionaire.
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However, sources close to Ratcliffe reveal his critical stance on how the club has conducted itself in the transfer market over the past decade. Ratcliffe emphasizes the belief that financial investment correlates strongly with success in football. He finds it perplexing that United, as one of the highest revenue-generating clubs globally, struggles on the pitch.
Accordingly, sources indicate that Ratcliffe is determined to address and resolve this issue.
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