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Italy draw with Ukraine to clinch Euro place


Italy draw with Ukraine to clinch Euro place

Italy qualified for Euro 2024 finals after drawing 0-0 against Ukraine in their final Group C qualifier on Monday (Nov 20) although the Ukrainians can still secure a spot through the playoffs. European champion Italy finished second, level on 14 points with third-placed Ukraine but with a better head-to-head record after a tense affair that could have gone either way.

Reigning European champions Italy secured the point they required against Ukraine to qualify for Euro 2024 as Group C runners-up behind England. A 2-1 win in the reverse fixture meant Italy only had to avoid defeat against Ukraine, with whom they began this crucial encounter level on points. A frantic match in Leverkusen, Germany ended goalless to confirm the Azzurri's place in next summer's finals. Third-placed Ukraine's qualification hopes rest on the play-offs in March.

Spurred on by passionate support at their 'home' venue amid Russia's ongoing invasion of their country, Ukraine had appeals for a stoppage-time penalty dismissed after Mykhailo Mudryk went down under a challenge from Bryan Cristante. But Luciano Spalletti's side survived that late scare to ensure they will be present in Germany to defend their crown, qualifying for their eighth consecutive European Championship.

"As all of you know, the war in Ukraine is continuing," Ukraine boss Serhiy Rebrov said.

"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."

Rebrov's Ukraine, the only side who had previously taken points off England, began positively in pursuit of the victory they sought.

Heorhiy Sudakov's low drive forced Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma into action in an end-to-end opening period, during which Anatoliy Trubin also produced a fine save to deny Nicolo Barella.

The Azzurri gradually asserted themselves but Trubin again came to Ukraine's rescue when Davide Frattesi was played through on goal, while Giacomo Raspadori fell agonisingly short of meeting the lively Federico Chiesa's ball across the six-yard box.

Donnarumma recovered superbly from his own failure to collect a cross to smother Mudryk's close-range attempt as the match remained delicately poised at the increasingly tense BayArena, but Italy held on.

Elsewhere on Monday, the Czech Republic and Slovenia both also qualified from their respective groups.

Tomas Soucek scored in a 3-0 win over Moldova as the Czechs qualified behind leaders Albania in Group E – though boss Jaroslav Silhavy stepped down after guiding them to qualification.

Meanwhile, Slovenia progressed as Group H runners-up to Denmark with a 2-1 victory against Kazakhstan.

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