Fair but fiery against Ukraine
Italy is going to the European Championships
November 20, 2023, 11:09 p.m
One point against Ukraine is enough – and Italy gets it too: the defending champions will be back at the European Football Championship next year. The Ukrainians are making things anything but easy for Luciano Spalletti’s team.
With courageous offensive football but no goals, European champions Italy secured their ticket to the European Championships in Germany in the thrilling “Group C final” against Ukraine. In Leverkusen, a 0-0 draw was enough for the defending champions to maintain second place in the table behind England. Ukraine, tied on 14 points, will have to take the detour via the play-offs in March in third place.
In September, national coach Luciano Spalletti came in to avert another debacle for the Squadra Azzurra after missing the World Cup finals in Qatar – and thanks to the 5-2 win over trauma opponents North Macedonia, Italy had all the trump cards against Ukraine. But the war-torn opponent, who had prepared for his “home game abroad” in Gdansk, Poland and traveled to Germany on Saturday, also thought they had “good chances,” as Ukraine coach Serhij Rebrow announced: “I don’t need anyone in to motivate the team extra.”
In the BayArena, the almost 30,000 spectators gave them goosebumps even before kick-off, while a huge Ukraine jersey stretched over the center circle: First, “Il Canto degli Italiani” rang fervently from the Tifosi’s throats, before the away fans loudly sang the Ukrainian anthem applauded.
It also got off to a fair but fiery start on the pitch, with both teams repeatedly pushing dangerously forward. Italy’s top striker Federico Chiesa (6th) missed the best chance from close range; on the other hand, keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma (14th) had to use all his skills against Georgij Sudakov. After about 20 minutes, things calmed down briefly and both sides were now more compact. But then Italy went up several gears, the scream for goal was on the Tifosi’s lips, but David Frattesi (29th) and Co. missed opportunity after opportunity.
Even after the break, the Azzurri initially set the tone, but Ukraine fought back with zeal – and suddenly Italy was swimming. After Michailo Mudryk’s shot from a tight angle, Donnarumma (65th) was once again in dire need, and a little later the captain also parried against Viktor Tsygankov (66th).