Defending champions Italy secured their place at Euro 2024 after a battling goalless draw with Ukraine.
The fixture, which was played at Bayer Leverkusen’s BayArena due to Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia in their homeland, was not short of chances, but Serhiy Rebrov’s men failed to find the winner they required to send them automatically through to next year’s tournament in Germany.
It means Ukraine must contest a play-off in March, while Italy boss Luciano Spalletti can reflect on a job well done after they clinched the point they needed to finished second behind England in Group C.
The equation was simple for both teams, but any hint of caution was thrown to the wind during an action-packed start with Viktor Tsygankov testing Gianluigi Donnarumma from range after five minutes.
It was the beginning of a frantic period with Federico Chiesa miscuing after Nicolo Zaniolo’s header across goal before Alessandro Buongiorno, one of four players recalled by Spalletti from Friday’s 5-2 win over North Macedonia, was booked for dragging Artem Dovbyk to the ground.
Ukraine continued to press for the opener and Mykhailo Mudryk produced two dangerous crosses but they failed to find a team-mate.
Donnarumma was required again in the 14th minute with an excellent low save to deny Heorhii Sudakov after a mazy run.
Italy managed to regroup and Francesco Acerbi’s 25-yard strike was pushed wide by Anatolii Trubin to signal a dominant period for the visitors.
A succession of corners ended with Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s header landing on the roof of the net before another Di Lorenzo effort deflected wide.
Spalletti’s men were fully into their stride now, but the breakthrough remained elusive with Davide Frattesi’s left-footed shot thwarted by Trubin after Chiesa’s pass.
Chiesa’s influence had grown now and he latched onto Federico Dimarco’s back heel but could not find Nicolo Barella in the six-yard box.
It was the Juventus attacker again in the thick of the action before the half was out when he sparked pinball in the Ukraine penalty area with another excellent dribble.
The hosts were able to survive to reach the break all square and while it was Rebrov’s team who needed all three points, his opposite number Spalletti made the first change with ex-West Ham forward Gianluca Scamacca brought on for the second period.
Italy remained on the front foot with Chiesa their chief threat and he sent another shot past a post before Ukraine started to turn the tide.
After Italy failed to deal with a throw into the area, Mudryk was denied by Donnarumma at the back post.
The decibel levels raised again when Tsygankov played a one-two with Dovbyk and briefly had a sight of goal, but he was crowded out by Jorginho and Di Lorenzo.
Mudryk curled wide soon after before Rebrov sent on forward Danylo Sikan alongside a flurry of other substitutes late on.
There would be no final chance, but Ukraine did have strong penalty appeals waved away in the third minute of stoppage time after Mudryk was caught by Bryan Cristante inside the area.
Referee Jesus Gil Manzano ignored Ukraine’s brief remonstrations and the full-time whistle followed minutes later to confirm Italy’s place at Euro 2024