Italy Clinches Euro 2024 Berth After Tense Draw with Ukraine

Euro 2024, Football

In a nail-biting encounter at the BayArena in Leverkusen, Italy secured their qualification for Euro 2024 with a hard-fought 0-0 draw against Ukraine in the final Group C qualifier. The match, marked by tense moments and near misses, concluded with Italy claiming the coveted spot for the European Championship, while Ukraine still has a chance to secure a place through the playoffs.

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The European champions finished second in Group C, level on 14 points with third-placed Ukraine. However, Italy secured the qualification with a better head-to-head record, emerging victorious in a match that could have swung either way. England, having sealed qualification earlier with a 3-1 victory over Italy in October, topped the group, leaving Italy in the runner-up position.

Despite the goalless draw, the match was far from uneventful. Ukraine, who have never beaten Italy, pressed for a breakthrough and had a strong claim for a penalty in stoppage time after Bryan Cristante’s challenge on Mykhailo Mudryk. However, the referee waved away their appeals, leaving the Ukrainians with a sense of frustration.

Reflecting on the match, Italy coach Luciano Spalletti acknowledged Ukraine’s resilience, stating, “Ukraine showed that they are an equipped team and they gave us a hard time.” Spalletti praised his team’s performance, particularly in the first half when Italy had numerous opportunities to secure the result. As the match progressed, it became more physical, with Ukraine introducing more robust players.

The playoff route remains open for Ukraine, who will have another chance to secure a spot at the European Championship in the playoffs scheduled for March. The playoff draw, crucial for teams still vying for qualification, is set to take place on Thursday in Nyon.

The match itself began with a lively start, featuring entertaining clashes between goalkeepers Gianluigi Donnarumma of Italy and Anatoliy Trubin of Ukraine. Italy, making their eighth consecutive appearance at the Euros, dominated possession and created more chances. Federico Chiesa had an early opportunity to break the deadlock, but his effort narrowly missed the target.

Both teams displayed determination, with Donnarumma denying Ukraine’s Georgiy Sudakov and pulling off a stunning save against Davide Frattesi. The resilient Ukrainian side increased their probing in the second half, with Mudryk coming close in the 66th minute, only to be thwarted by another exceptional save from Donnarumma.

Reflecting on their qualification, Donnarumma expressed satisfaction, saying, “We are where we deserve to be with all the difficulties we had, but thanks to the new coach and staff we are back.” Under Spalletti’s guidance, Italy has experienced a resurgence, winning three times, drawing twice, and losing once since his appointment in August, following their failure to qualify for the last year’s World Cup in Qatar.

As Italy looks ahead to Euro 2024, set to be held in Germany, the draw of the playoff stage will be closely watched, while fans celebrate their team’s resilience and qualification success after a challenging group stage.