Breathe Azzurri fans. Italy will not miss another major tournament. At least, not next summer.
Italy secured their place at EURO 2024 thanks to a 0-0 draw with Ukraine in their final Group C qualifier on Monday. Despite the draw, Ukraine still has a chance to qualify through the playoffs.
Italy, the reigning European champions, finished second in the group, tied on 14 points with Ukraine, but advanced due to a better head-to-head record in a closely contested group.
Led by Luciano Spalletti, after Roberto Mancini stepped down in the summer to take charge of the Saudi Arabian men’s national team, Italy finished six points behind group leaders England, who booked their spot with a 3-1 win over the Azzurri at Wembley in October.
Ukraine, who have never beaten Italy, had a strong penalty claim in stoppage time following one-time CanMNT-eligible Bryan Cristante’s clumsy tackle on Chelsea star Mykhailo Mudryk, but the referee did not award it.
“They brought in more physical players but at that moment they no longer played football,” Spalletti said of his opposition.
Ukraine can qualify for their fourth consecutive European Championship through the playoffs in March. The playoff draw is scheduled for Thursday in Nyon.
Monday’s match, held at BayArena in Leverkusen, was somewhat of a goalkeeping clinic as Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma and Ukraine’s Anatoliy Trubin made some absolutely crucial saves.
Italy, set to make their eighth consecutive appearance at the Euros, dominated possession and created more opportunities, but Ukraine were resilient and looked more than capable on the counter-attack.
Federico Chiesa had a chance to break the deadlock in the seventh minute, but his shot from inside the box narrowly missed the target. Donnarumma then denied Ukraine a goal seven minutes later by saving Georgiy Sudakov’s low shot.
Italian defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo nearly scored from a corner before the half-hour mark, but Trubin made an impressive save to deny Davide Frattesi.
Italy continued to control the game in the second half, but Ukraine increased their attacking efforts, with Mudryk coming close in the 66th minute, only to be denied by another excellent save from Donnarumma.
“We are very happy,” Donnarumma said. “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 the leadership of Spalletti, who replaced Roberto Mancini in August, Italy has recorded three wins, two draws, and one loss. They did not qualify for last year’s World Cup in Qatar.