A long-drawn-out ploy – defending champion Italy may go to the European Championship after all. The Azzurri missed a lot of chances, which almost cost them even more after the break. Ukraine, which was disappointed with a penalty that was not called, will play the play-offs.
‘Una notte da non fallire’. A night not to fail. The last hurdle towards the European Championship had to be taken by Italy, otherwise it would have been condemned to the jump-offs in March. Ukraine formed ‘l’ultimo ostacolo’ – the last obstacle towards Germany. Serhij Rebrov’s yellow-blue team was next to La Squadra Azzurri in the rankings – in the event of a draw, however, the latter went straight through after the 2-1 for Italy in September.
“The will to defend our European title is enormous,” national coach Luciano Spalletti had proclaimed one day before the match on neutral ground in Leverkusen. After two missed World Cups, it is unthinkable that a football country like Italy, as defending champion, would also miss a European Championship. On German soil, of all places, where the Azzurri became world champions in 2006.
Before the break, a new trauma seemed unthinkable. The Italians had chance after chance, but failed to decide the game before half-time. Chiesa, Frattesi and also Di Lorenzo in particular kept the Ukrainians alive, who hardly came close to Donnarumma. It was women and children first in the box for Rebrov’s team.
A completely different Ukraine after the break. From the hour mark, the ‘home team’ took over, with some hot positions in front of the Italian goalkeeper. Under the impetus of a good Dovbyk, Italy was increasingly pushed back. Ukraine came closest to a goal in extra time, when the ref did not see a penalty in a contact between Cristante and Mudryk.
Finally, Italy breathed a sigh of relief. Despite a strong first half, it was still shaky until the last minute. The reigning European Championship winner qualifies directly for the final tournament in Germany. The Ukrainians, in turn, face two jump-off matches on the way to the European Championship. A stunt in Leverkusen seemed to be in the making for a long time, but Ukraine failed to outwit Donnarumma.
End of second half
Oleksandr Svatok is replaced by Ruslan Malinovskiy
Matteo Politano is replaced by Matteo Darmian
Yukhym Konoplia is replaced by Oleksandr Tymchyk
Oleksandr Zinchenko is replaced by Danylo Sikan
We are approaching the absolute end of the match and the tension is palpable in Leverkusen. What else can Ukraine do?
Federico Chiesa is replaced by Moise Kean
Viktor Tsyhankov is replaced by Oleksandr Zubkov
Taras Stepanenko is replaced by Oleksandr Pikhalyonok
Yellow card for Yukhym Konoplia
Jorginho is replaced by Bryan Cristante
Nicolò Zaniolo is replaced by Matteo Politano
Second half kicked off
The ball has started rolling again. Will opportunities come soon?
Giacomo Raspadori is replaced by Gianluca Scamacca
Second half kicked off
Frattesi only for goal
Suddenly it’s Italy again. Frattesi runs well and is alone in front of goal, but Trubin keeps him from making it 0-1.
The line judge had it ‘flag’ early
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A corner kick from Italy ends up on the edge of the sixteen at Barella. The Inter midfielder kicks, but Trubin has a nice parade in his house.
Italy is not under pressure
Another great opportunity for Ukraine. Sudakov kicks from the edge of the box, but Donnarumma saves.
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