Holders Italy book place in Euro 2024.  Azzuri escaped with a draw, Czech Republic and Slovenia also qualified.

PARIS : Reigning champions Italy escaped their ticket for Euro 2024 last Monday after holding on for a nervy goalless against Ukraine in their final qualifier, while the Czech Republic and Slovenia also clinched places at next year's final.

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 2020 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 Gianlugi Donnarumma had to produce a firm hand low down to keep out an early Georgiy strike.

However, Luciano Spalleti's side threatened at the other end with Ukraine keeper Anatoliy Trubin saving from Nicolo Barella and racing out to deny 

David 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.

'' We are delighted. After all the difficulties we have had, we will be in Germany and we will be going there as reigning champions and going there to win,'' Donnarumma told broadcaster Rai 1.

Ukraine must therefore negotiate the play-offs if they are to return to Germany for the tournament next June. [AFP]


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