Italy, the reigning European champions, ensured their qualification for Euro 2024 after securing a draw in the match against Ukraine. Italy finished as the runner-up in Group C, behind England.
Their 2-1 victory in the previous match meant that Italy only needed to avoid defeat in the encounter against Ukraine. The intense match in Leverkusen, Germany, ended in a goalless draw, confirming Italy’s place in the upcoming summer finals.
Ukraine, positioned third in the group, will now have to battle through the play-offs in March to secure a spot in Euro 2024.
Motivated by passionate support at their ‘home’ stadium amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of their country, Ukraine fought hard. They appealed for a stoppage-time penalty after Mykhailo Mudryk was brought down by Bryan Cristante, but the referee dismissed their plea.
Nevertheless, under the guidance of Luciano Spalletti, Italy’s team managed to hold on and secure their presence in Germany to defend their championship, marking their eighth consecutive appearance in the European Championship—a record.
“As all of you know, the war in Ukraine is continuing,” said Ukraine’s coach, Serhiy Rebrov.
“It is quite hard for the players; they’re always watching their phones, they’re watching the news, same as me. In this atmosphere, it is not easy to work. But we understand we are presenting as a very strong country, and I think today on the pitch all the players showed that we have character and that we fight for our country.”
Ukraine, the only team to have previously earned points against England, displayed a positive approach in their quest for victory. Heorhiy Sudakov’s low shot forced Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma into a remarkable save in the intense opening period, where Anatoliy Trubin also made a fine save to deny Nicolo Barella.
Italy gradually took control of the game, but Trubin once again came to Ukraine’s rescue when Davide Frattesi broke through on goal. Giacomo Raspadori fell just short of connecting with Federico Chiesa’s ball across the six-yard box.
Donnarumma recovered well from his failure to collect a cross, blocking Mudryk’s close-range attempt. The match remained tense at the increasingly nervous BayArena, but Italy held on.
Luciano Spalletti, Italy’s relatively new coach who replaced Roberto Mancini just three months ago, commented, “We have a moment to pat ourselves on the back. Now, the level will step up. Now, the fun begins.”z z z z z z z z z z z z z
In other matches on Monday, the Czech Republic and Slovenia also qualified from their respective groups. West Ham’s Tomas Soucek scored in a 3-0 victory over Moldova as the Czechs secured qualification behind Group E leaders Albania, although coach Jaroslav Silhavy resigned after guiding them to qualification.
Meanwhile, Slovenia progressed as the Group H runners-up to Denmark with a 2-1 victory against Kazakhstan.