In a gripping showdown in Leverkusen, Germany, Italy secured their place in the Euro 2024 finals with a goalless draw against Ukraine. The Azzurri, previously victorious with a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture, needed only to avoid defeat to confirm their spot in next summer’s championship, ultimately achieving this in a frenetic encounter.
Ukraine, facing the challenges of the ongoing war in their country, displayed resilience and passion throughout the match. Their appeals for a stoppage-time penalty were waved away, adding to the intense atmosphere at their ‘home’ venue. Despite the difficult circumstances, Ukraine’s qualification hopes now hinge on the play-offs in March, as they finished third in the group.
Serhiy Rebrov, Ukraine’s manager, acknowledged the challenging backdrop, stating, “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.”
Italy, under the leadership of Luciano Spalletti, survived Ukraine early attacking threats, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma making crucial saves. The Azzurri gradually asserted themselves, but Ukraine’s goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin kept them at bay. The goalless draw marked Italy’s qualification for their eighth consecutive European Championship, a moment for Spalletti to acknowledge the team’s achievement.
“We have a moment to pat ourselves on the back. Now, the level will step up. Now, the fun begins,” commented Spalletti, emphasising the challenges that lie ahead in the highly competitive Euro 2024.
In other qualifying action on Monday, the Czech Republic and Slovenia also secured their places in the finals. West Ham’s Tomas Soucek played a pivotal role in the Czech Republic’s 3-0 win over Moldova, securing qualification behind group leaders Albania. Meanwhile, Slovenia progressed as Group H runners-up, defeating Kazakhstan 2-1.