Italy on Monday earned some redemption by qualifying for next year’s UEFA Euro 2024, while Slovenia and the Czech Republic also secured spots.
Italy needed just a point against Ukraine to claim second spot in Group C and avoid the playoffs and drew 0-0 in Germany.
However, there were some nervy moments for the Azzurri, who rode their luck.
Italy failed to qualify for the past two FIFA World Cups after losing playoffs — to Sweden and North Macedonia. After they missed out on the 2018 World Cup, they went on to win the following European Championship.
“We are very happy. We are where we deserve to be after all the difficulties that we had, but thanks to the new coach and the staff we have returned,” Italy captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma said. “Now it’s right that we go there and we go there to bring back something, even to win it because we are going there as winners.”
Ukraine would have sneaked past Italy with a win, but now head into the playoffs. England were already assured of top spot in the group and they drew against North Macedonia 1-1 to finish the campaign unbeaten.
A point would also have been enough for Slovenia and the Czech Republic to advance to Euro 2024 and they beat Kazakhstan and Moldova respectively to end their opponents’ hopes of qualifying automatically for a first major international tournament.
Kazakhstan still have a chance via the playoffs. They face Greece in the semi-finals on March 21 and — if they win — either Georgia or Luxembourg five days later.
The top two finishers from each of the 10 groups advance. Another three spots are to be determined in a playoff linked to performances in the UEFA Nations League.
Hosts Germany automatically qualified.
Ukraine were angered by a decision not to give a penalty late in the game for what seemed like a trip on Mykhailo Mudryk.
Federico Chiesa, Giovanni di Lorenzo and Davide Frattesi all missed excellent chances in the first half for Italy, for which Donnarumma charged down a shot by Mudryk to stop Ukraine taking the lead.
His own misjudgement off a long throw gave Mudryk the chance.
It was the first time Italy failed to score in a European Championship qualifier in more than 13 years.
The match took place at the stadium of Bundesliga leader Bayer 04 Leverkusen because Ukraine cannot play international games at home for security reasons during the military invasion by Russia.
Russia were banned from Euro 2024 qualifying.
Russia thrashed Cuba 8-0 in a friendly on Monday with eight different scorers. The result was one goal shy of their record 9-0 win over San Marino in qualifying for Euro 2020.
Slovenia are to play in the European Championship for the first time in nearly 25 years.
A late goal from Benjamin Verbic saw Slovenia beat Kazakhstan 2-1 and qualify for the tournament for the first time since Euro 2000.
Denmark were already guaranteed to finish top of Group H and lost away to Northern Ireland 2-0.
Pyry Soiri scored twice to help third-placed Finland win in San Marino 2-1.
Not content with qualifying for only their second major tournament, Albania ensured that they did so as Group E winners after drawing with the Faroe Islands 0-0. That saw Albania finish above the Czech Republic thanks to a superior head-to-head record.
The Czech Republic beat 10-man Moldova 3-0 to seal second spot in the group.
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