Italy secured their spot in Euro 2024 by tying 0-0 with Ukraine in their last Group C match on Monday.
The European champions maintained their title by placing second, tied at 14 points with third-place Ukraine. However, they secured a better head-to-head record after a nail-biting match that could have ended in either team’s favor.
Luciano Spalletti’s team finished in second place, six points behind the group leaders England. The latter secured their qualification by defeating Italy 3-1 at Wembley last month.
Ukraine, who have never beaten the Azzurri, had strong claims for a penalty waved away after Bryan Cristante’s clumsy challenge on Mykhailo Mudryk in stoppage time. They can still book a spot at Euro 2024 via the playoffs in March; the playoff draw takes place on Thursday in Nyon.
The game began energetically, but both the Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and the Ukrainian goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin remained strong in a thrilling match at BayArena in Leverkusen.
Italy, who will be participating in the Euros for the eighth time in a row, held the majority of possession and generated more opportunities. However, Ukraine remained calm and focused on capitalizing on counterattacks.
Federico Chiesa of Italy had an opportunity in the seventh minute, but his attempt from the box narrowly missed the bar. Seven minutes later, Donnarumma prevented Ukraine from scoring by blocking Georgiy Sudakov’s low shot.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo, the right-back for Napoli, almost scored for Italy from a corner just before the 30-minute mark. However, Trubin made an incredible save to prevent Davide Frattesi, a forward for Internazionale, from scoring.
After halftime, Italy maintained control while Ukraine became more aggressive. In the 66th minute, Mudryk had a chance to score but Donnarumma made an impressive save to prevent it.
“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 joy as his team overcame the disappointment of not qualifying for last year’s World Cup. He stated that they have earned their current position despite facing challenges, and credited their new coach and staff for their success.