Written By Onyeka Daniel

Italy finally sealed their place in the Euro tournament set to hold in the summer of next year with a 0-0 draw against Ukraine in Leverkusen after a 5-2 win over North Macedonia had taken them level with Ukrainian, meaning that they needed just a point and they finally got it with that goalless draw.

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Consequently, FIGC President Gabriele Gravina revealed that he ‘kept the promise to the Italian people’ and thanked Luciano Spalletti for the EURO 2024 qualification. The Azzurri had missed out on the last two editions of the World Cup and were heading for another dangerous play-off in this qualifying campaign too.

However, a point against Ukraine proved sufficient and they booked their ticket to the Euros in Germany next summer. “We had made a promise to the Italian people to heal some of those sporting wounds, and we kept that promise,” Gravina told Sky Sport Italia.

There had been a bright spot between those World Cup flops when Roberto Mancini took Italy to win the EURO 2020 title, but the coach quit in August to take over the Saudi Arabia role. Scrambling for a replacement, the FIGC convinced Scudetto-winner Spalletti to jump right back in just weeks after he had left Napoli.


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“A lot changed in the spirit with Spalletti, that enthusiasm returned and the desire to get back to being a special team. With joy and calm, Spalletti brought back a shape and character to this squad,” added Gravina. “The spell had broken before, but Spalletti did well to quickly recover it. The Nazionale showed strong spirit against Ukraine.

“We saw a team that dominated the match, aside from the suffering of the final minutes. We have qualified, where we had to be, even if for a while we risked not being there. Thank you to Spalletti and the lads.” Because of this result, Italy are likely to be in Pot 4 for the EURO 2024 group phase draw, which will take place on December 2.

Reacting to the draw, Spaletti noted that while he was brought in during an emergency situation to make sure Italy qualified for EURO 2024, he further stated that ‘now I have the opportunity to really start getting to work.’ “I heard the media talking about fear, but you’ve been telling me from the moment I arrived that this game was fundamental,” said Spalletti in his press conference.

“Considering what happened in the recent past with other tournaments, we absolutely had to qualify and it’s not easy to play football when you can feel that pressure breathing down your neck. “It is not easy to come in and immediately make the right choices. Some things I learned only after taking the job and now I think I know a little more. I came here to qualify, not to find excuses in case we missed out.

“Now the real work starts, now I have the opportunity to really start getting to work. When I accepted the role, I knew that qualification was mandatory.” With something to now work towards next summer, Spalletti is already introducing some changes to Mancini’s reign, including an app that will allow the players to watch video lectures and tactical analysis even when they are away from the Coverciano camp.

“We want to get as close as possible to what happens at a club. We want to keep the players in contact, so I will not wait until March, I will go to the training centres, have dinner with them and ask for their opinions. “We have great players in this Nazionale and I want to get to know them without that pressure of needing the result. The players have things to tell us. We will also from now on probably train with a drone, because we need the footage from the sessions.”

The preparations begin for EURO 2024 and that means scheduling some friendly matches for the next get-together in March 2024. “We needed this result to get back into the football that matters. Without the Euros, it would’ve been difficult to really get into a growth process. I will ask for the most difficult friendly fixtures, because many of these players do not have much experience at European level, so when else can they accumulate it?”

In his six matches in charge, Spalletti has overseen three wins, two draws and a defeat to England. “I have already learned some important things. For instance, we never really had Alessandro Buongiorno and yet he proved to be a champion. Nicolò Barella is a very versatile midfielder.”

With the scoreline still at 0-0, Giacomo Raspadori was replaced by Gianluca Scamacca at half-time, while Domenico Berardi was not even on the bench despite starting the 5-2 win over North Macedonia. “Just two days to recover from one game to the next is not much, they never got to train, we had to basically explain things to them while they walked around.

“We needed someone strong in the air, so I introduced Scamacca. He did not play at his level this evening, but he worked hard. It became more physical as the game wore on, there was very little football, it was just a continual battle for the ball.”

There was controversy in stoppages when Bryan Cristante appeared to catch Mykhailo Mudryk on the ankle, but the referee and VAR did not intervene. “Cristante puts his foot near to Mudryk’s foot, it is next to it, but it does not touch. Mudryk is already going over at that point and trying to find the contact.”


But Ukraine coach Serhiy Rebrov has a different opinion to the decision, even if he remained extremely diplomatic when asked about the controversial penalty call in the final moments against Italy. ‘I thought it was a penalty, but the referee and VAR did not.’

Before kickoff, the Ukrainians knew only a victory would see them get through to the tournament directly, as anything less meant the play-offs, but it ended 0-0. In stoppage time, Bryan Cristante appeared to catch Mykhailo Mudryk on the ankle, with referee Jesus Gil Manzano waving play on and VAR deciding not to intervene with an On-Field Review either.

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Of course, the first question asked when Rebrov got to the press room in Leverkusen. “I thought it was a penalty, but there is a referee and VAR, we are not the ones who decide. The referee was not called to verify the footage,” said the coach. “In my view, it was a spot-kick. The VAR did not consider it opportune to call the referee in front of the display.”

As for the match itself, Italy had the better of the first half with several opportunities, but Ukraine pushed hard in the final stages. “It was a tough game from the very start. We above all worked defensively in the first half, then started to press and counter more. The lads were sad in the locker room, I spoke to them, it was a good performance.”

Despite having to play all their ‘home’ games on neutral turf due to the war in Ukraine, the team ended the group phase without defeat in these fixtures. “It certainly has not been easy, but we always did our duty and tried to give the best we could.

There was a lovely atmosphere in the stadium and the Italians, both on the field and in the stands, showed us great respect.” Ukraine will now enter the play-offs and hope to be one of the three teams from the group of 12 who make it through to EURO 2024 next summer. The play-offs will take place in March 2024.

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