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Rediff.com  » Sports » Italy qualify for Euro 2024; England held to draw

Italy qualify for Euro 2024; England held to draw

November 21, 2023 10:35 IST
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IMAGE: Italy's players celebrate after qualifying for Euro 2024 following their goalless draw against Ukraine at BayArena, Leverkusen, on Monday. Photograph: Thilo Schmuelgen/Reuters

Italy qualified for Euro 2024 after drawing 0-0 against Ukraine in their final Group C qualifier on Monday although the Ukrainians can still secure a spot through the playoffs.

 

European champions Italy finished second, level on 14 points with third-placed Ukraine but with a better head-to-head record after a tense affair that could have gone either way.

The Italians ended six points behind England, who had sealed qualification after beating Italy 3-1 at Wembley in October.

Ukraine, who have never beaten Italy, had strong claims for a penalty after Bryan Cristante's clumsy challenge on Mykhailo Mudryk in stoppage time but nothing was given.

They can still book a spot at a fourth consecutive European Championship via the playoffs in March. The playoff draw will take place on Thursday in Nyon.

"Ukraine showed that they are an equipped team and they gave us a hard time," Italy coach Luciano Spalletti told Rai Sport.

"Today we played a good match because in the first half we had many opportunities to secure the result. Then when we didn't manage to do so the match became dirtier and more physical.

"They brought in more physical players but at that moment they no longer played football."

IMAGE: Italy's Federico Chiesa shoots at goal. Photograph: Thilo Schmuelgen/Reuters

The match got off to a lively start but both goalkeepers - Italy's Gianluigi Donnarumma and Ukraine's Anatoliy Trubin - held firm in an entertaining clash at BayArena in Leverkusen.

Italy, who will make their eighth consecutive appearance at the Euros, had most possession and created more chances but Ukraine remained composed as they looked to counter-attack.

Italy's Federico Chiesa had a chance to break the deadlock in the seventh minute but his effort from inside the box flew narrowly over the bar before Donnarumma denied Ukraine an opener seven minutes later by keeping out Georgiy Sudakov's low shot.

Defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo then nearly nodded home for Italy from a corner just before the half-hour mark before Trubin pulled off a stunning save to deny Davide Frattesi.

Italy continued to dominate after the break but Ukraine's probing increased and Mudryk came close in the 66th minute only to be denied by Donnarumma who pulled off another fine save.

"We are very happy," Donnarumma said. "We are where we deserve to be with all the difficulties we had, but thanks to the new coach and staff we are back."

Under Spalletti, who took over from Roberto Mancini in August, Italy have won three times, drawn twice and lost once. They failed to qualify for last year's World Cup in Qatar.

The European Championship will be held in Germany.

England held to scrappy draw in North Macedonia

IMAGE: England's Harry Maguire reacts during the Euro 2024 qualifying match against North Macedonia. Photograph: Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters

England suffered a frustrating conclusion to their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign as they were held to a scrappy 1-1 draw by North Macedonia in Group C on Monday.

With qualification long since secured and just a draw needed to seal a top seeding for next year's finals, England trailed to Enis Bardhi's 41st-minute follow-up after his penalty was saved.

Gareth Southgate's group winners hogged possession but lacked fluency and invention against dogged hosts and needed an own goal by Jani Atanasov to get them level on the hour.

Jack Grealish had earlier seen a goal ruled out for offside while teenager Rico Lewis had a debut he will not forget after harshly being penalised for North Macedonia's penalty.

England ended the calendar year unbeaten, if in a rather underwhelming way, topping their group with 20 points from eight games with North Macedonia fourth on eight points.

After a lacklustre victory over Malta on Friday, England would have wanted to lay down a marker with a storming performance in Skopje against a side they beat 7-0 at home.

But they got bogged down and the only real positive was that they will be in the pot of top seeds for the Euro 2024 draw.

IMAGE: England's Bukayo Saka clashes with Ezgjan Alioski of North Macedonia as they both attempt to head the ball. Photograph: Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters

Southgate made six changes to the side that started Friday's 2-0 home win over Malta with Ollie Watkins getting a chance to impress in place of the rested Harry Kane but he managed only 11 touches before being substituted as England lacked creativity.

They enjoyed 82% possession in the first half yet trailed at the interval after Lewis, the day before his 19th birthday, was harshly-adjudged to have conceded a penalty.

The Manchester City full back headed away a bouncing ball but inadvertently caught Bojan Miovski in the face, prompting a VAR check which eventually saw Slovakian referee Filip Glova award a spot kick after checking the pitch-side monitor.

Jordan Pickford saved Bardhi's effort but the rebound fell invitingly to Bardhi who made no mistake at the second attempt.

It was tough on Lewis although England were fortunate earlier when Harry Maguire bundled over Elif Elmas in the box after his initial sloppy pass had put his side in trouble.

Declan Rice did thump a shot against the woodwork while Trent Alexander-Arnold drew a great save from home keeper Stole Dimitriev with a dipping effort on the stroke of halftime.

Grealish then thought he had levelled from Bukayo Saka's cross two minutes after the restart but he was ruled offside after a lengthy VAR check.

It took the introduction of captain Kane off the bench to save England with the skipper attacking Phil Foden's cross and the ball going in off Atanasov.

Northern Ireland defeat group winners Denmark

IMAGE: Dion Charles scores Northern Ireland's second goal past Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Northern Ireland netted two second-half goals to beat Group H winners Denmark in their Euro 2024 qualifier at Windsor Park on Monday, closing out an unsuccessful qualifying campaign with an impressive showing in front of the jubilant home fans.

The Danes, who made seven changes to the starting line-up that secured qualification in a 2-0 win over runners-up Slovenia on Friday, finished top of the six-team group on 22 points, level with the Slovenians and 13 ahead of Northern Ireland.

The home side had precious few efforts on goal until Isaac Price crowned their best move of the game with a cool finish on the hour mark, punctuating a slick passing sequence by stroking the ball past Kasper Schmeichel.

Dion Charles netted the second in the 81st minute, ghosting in at the back post to slam home substitute Conor McMenamin's low ball across the box to cement his side's third victory of the campaign following two wins against San Marino.

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