Holders Italy secure Euro 2024 place, Czech Republic and Slovenia qualify

Reigning champions Italy se­cured their ticket for Euro 2024 on Monday after holding on for a nervy goalless draw against Ukraine in their final qualifier, while the Czech Republic and Slovenia also clinched places at next year’s finals.


Italy only needed the draw in a game played in Leverkus­en, Germany, in order to qual­ify but a defeat against their direct rivals in Group C would have left their fate to be decided in play-offs next March. That was a scenario they desperately wanted to avoid following the trauma of failing to qualify for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups after losing in play-offs, either side of winning the last Europe­an Championship in 2021.


The high stakes made it a tense occasion and Italy goal­keeper Gianluigi Donnarum­ma had to produce a firm hand low down to keep out an early Georgiy Sudakov strike.


However, Luciano Spallet­ti’s side threatened at the other end with Ukraine ‘keeper Ana­toliy Trubin saving from Nicolo Barella and racing out to deny Davide Frattesi before the half-hour mark.


Donnarumma blocked a Mykhailo Mudryk attempt in the 65th minute and there was a flashpoint in stoppage time when the Ukraine winger went down in the Italy box under a Bryan Cristante challenge, but no penalty was given. The two nations finish level on 14 points behind England in Group C, but Italy have the better head-to-head record having won 2-1 in Milan in September. — AFP