Italy officially secured a spot in Euro 2024 by tying 0-0 with Ukraine in their last Group C qualifying match on Monday.
The current champions of Europe came in second place, tied at 14 points with Ukraine in third place. However, they had a better head-to-head record after a tense match that could have gone either way.
Luciano Spalletti’s team finished with a six-point deficit behind the group leaders England, who secured their qualification by defeating Italy 3-1 at Wembley in the previous month.
Ukraine, who has never defeated the Azzurri, had a clear case for a penalty dismissed when Bryan Cristante made a clumsy challenge on Mykhailo Mudryk during stoppage time. However, they still have the opportunity to secure a spot at Euro 2024 through the playoffs in March. The playoff draw will be held on Thursday in Nyon.
The game began with an exciting pace, but both goalkeepers, Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma and Ukraine’s Anatoliy Trubin, remained strong in a lively showdown at BayArena in Leverkusen.
Italy, who is set to compete in the Euros for the eighth time in a row, dominated possession and generated more opportunities. However, Ukraine maintained their composure and focused on capitalizing on counterattacks.
Federico Chiesa of Italy had an opportunity in the seventh minute, but his attempt from within the box narrowly missed the bar. Seven minutes later, Donnarumma prevented Ukraine from scoring first by blocking Georgiy Sudakov’s low shot.
The Napoli right-back, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, nearly nodded in for Italy from a corner just before the half-hour mark before Trubin pulled off a stunning save to deny the Internazionale forward Davide Frattesi.
After halftime, Italy maintained their dominance while Ukraine’s efforts became more aggressive. In the 66th minute, Mudryk nearly scored, but Donnarumma made another impressive save to deny him.
“Ukraine showed they are a well-equipped team and they gave us a hard time,” Spalletti told Rai Sport. “Today we played a good match; in the first half we had many opportunities to secure the result. When we didn’t manage to do so the match became dirtier and more physical. [Ukraine] brought in more physical players but at that moment, they no longer played football.”
Donnarumma expressed his joy as his team moved on from their failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup. Despite the challenges they faced, they have reached a deserving position thanks to their new coach and staff.