Italy will not miss another major international tournament, but Ukraine did all it could to pile on the pressure during Euro 2024 qualifying. A scoreless draw in Leverkusen means Italy will have the opportunity to defend its European Championship title in Germany this coming summer.
All Italy needed was a draw in this game. A nervy win against North Macedonia in the penultimate match of Euro 2024 qualifying meant Italy occupied the second spot in its qualifying group. Yet, Italy was only level on points with Ukraine. The Italians hold the tiebreaker over Ukraine because Italy won when the two met in Milan earlier in qualifying.
As a result, Italy is advancing to its eighth consecutive European Championship. Italy, which won Euro 2020 on penalties over England, nearly missed a third major tournament in four attempts. Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2018. Then, North Macedonia stunned the Italians in a World Cup playoff before 2022.
For long periods of this game in Germany, Italy looked to be reliving those memories against North Macedonia. It dominated possession and had several high-quality scoring chances. Each time, Ukraine did enough to defend, or Italy was wasteful in the final third. This time, though, Italy did not concede a stoppage-time goal to miss another tournament. Ukraine certainly came close, and it had a penalty shout. However, Ukraine fell short, and the hosts will enter a playoff for a spot in Euro 2024.
Italy and Ukraine leave chances begging in Euro 2024 Qualifying
In the first half, Italy had the lion’s share of chances. Federico Chiesa had a glorious chance just five minutes into the game. He bounced his volley into the ground from 12 yards out, and the ball ballooned over the crossbar. Davide Frattesi also had a chance one-on-one against Ukrainian goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin. Trubin denied the attempt at the half-hour mark.
In the second half, Italy sat back knowing a draw would be good enough to qualify. Ukraine had several quality scoring chances of its own, particularly as the game progressed. Gianluigi Donnarumma denied Mykhailo Mudryk around the hour mark.
Yet, the moment of controversy came in stoppage time. Mudryk went down in the Italy penalty box after a challenge. Replays showed contact, but VAR did not step in. Referees argued Mudryk went down too easily given the contact from the Italian defense. Ukraine did not clamor for a penalty, and even the in-game commentator noted Italy would have been all over the referee if it were the other way around.
Regardless, the game ended scoreless. Italian players celebrated vehemently as they avoided another catastrophe.
Ukraine still has a chance to qualify
Italy is locked in for the group stage in Germany next summer. Ukraine, on the other hand, will enter a playoff. There, it takes on Israel in the first playoff game based on the standings in other groups. The winner of that game will play the winner between Finland and Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of those four teams will reach Euro 2024 after the playoff stage.
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