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EURO 2024 qualifiers

Italy through to Euro 2024 after nervy draw with Ukraine

Italy's players celebrate after qualifying for the Euros. Photo: Leon Kuegeler/ AFP

European champions Italy won the right to defend their title at Euro 2024 after a 0-0 draw on Monday with Ukraine in Leverkusen secured qualification for next year’s finals in Germany.

The final score belied the true nature of the match, with Italy’s high-octane attack and Ukraine’s counter-attacking threat creating several chances for both teams.

Ukraine had a late penalty appeal turned down, despite Italy midfielder Bryan Cristante looking to have made contact with Mykhailo Mudryk’s foot in injury time.

The result means Italy, who failed to qualify for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups either side of their Euro 2020 triumph, avoid another embarrassing tournament miss.

Ukraine, forced to take the fixture to Germany due to the ongoing conflict with Russia, can still qualify, but will need to navigate the play-offs in March 2024.

Italy travelled to Leverkusen knowing they would progress by avoiding defeat, while Ukraine knew only a win would suffice.

New Italy coach Luciano Spalletti has only been in charge for three months after Roberto Mancini surprisingly left for the Saudi Arabia national team job.

Saying on Monday Italy had a “duty to defend” their title, Spalletti promised to continue taking risks against Ukraine.

Mudryk was lively down the left for Ukraine and crafted a number of half-chances early, with his side denied by poor finishing.

Italy’s dominance of possession started to tell after half an hour, Federico Chiesa sliding a smooth pass across the face of goal which eluded a desperate Davide Frattesi.

Italy continued to attack early in the second half but as the game wore on the increasingly nervous Italians sat back, allowing Ukraine more space up front.

Mudryk was always a threat and appeared to have been brought down in the box after contact from Cristante, but the referee waved his team’s desperate pleas for a spot-kick away.

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