One can still vividly remember how Italy came from behind to beat England on penalty shootout at Wembley Stadium more than two years ago, but what followed suit for the defending European champions were nothing like what they would have expected, having missed out on the next major tournament of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and lost Euro-winning head coach Roberto Mancini due to his resignation less than a year from the Finals in Germany. Besides, the defending European champions also suffered a tumultuous journey in the 2024 UEFA Euro Qualifiers, with qualification only secured on the final Matchday after a dramatic goalless draw with Ukraine.
Italy Survived a Late Penalty Drama Versus Ukraine
This final Matchday fixture between the defending European champions Italy and Ukraine were played on neutral ground of BayArena, Germany due to the ongoing war in the latter, and Luciano Spalletti’s side were clearly the better team among the two, dominating the game with 17 shots in total and an overall possession of 59%.
Nevertheless, despite the superior advantage in the said areas, Italy were unable to break down Ukraine’s backline in the 90 minutes plus added time, and almost left the stadium with zero points, when the defending European champions were accused to have fouled their opponents in the penalty box late in the game.
Chelsea winger Mykhailo Mudryk was the centre of attention when he was running into the dangerous zone and apparently clipped by substitute Bryan Cristante in the 90+3rd minute. To everyone’s amazement, Spanish referee Jesus Gil Manzano waved away Ukraine’s penalty claims and decided not to take a look at VAR as a result. These actions by the official meant the match were ending with a goalless draw, with the defending European champions safely through to the tournament at Germany, while Ukraine can only join the Italians if they can succeed in the playoffs.
View this post on Instagram
Defending European Champions’ Title Defence Campaign Has Been Below Par
Italy can now look forward to the Finals at Germany next summer, but lots of things and adjustments need to be done if they wish to successfully defend their title a few months later from now.
The final standing of Group C in the 2024 UEFA Euro Qualifiers saw England and Italy make it into the UEFA Euro 2024 Finals, with the former topping the group with an unbeaten record of six wins and two draws, whereas second-placed defending European champions only managing to win half of their eight Matchdays, drawing and losing two each in the remaining games.
The Italians’ struggles up front in both legs against the Three Lions (2-1 defeat at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Matchday 1 and a 3-1 Wembley revenge on Matchday 6) were obvious and could be exploited when they are up against the finest teams in Europe in Germany next year.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) November 20, 2023
Spalletti: “We Must Defend the Title That We Have in Our House.”
The 64-year-old Spalletti took over the head coach job for the defending European champions back in September 2023, winning thrice, drawing twice and losing once in the 2024 UEFA Euro Qualifiers since his takeover. The former manager of Russian outfit FC Zenit Saint Petersburg and multiple Italian clubs vowed to lead his country to glory as the defending European champions in Germany next year after their secured qualifications to the Finals.
“We are the side that won the last European Championship and we must defend the title that we have in our house. There is no better way to do that than to let our many fans enjoy another Euro tournament. On top of that, Germany has one of the largest communities in the world of Italians living abroad. There is a great deal of passion behind us and we must look to them too.”
Croatia or Wales for the Final Automatic Qualification Spot of the 2024 UEFA Euro Qualifiers?
With the defending European champions Italy qualified for the actual competition next year, all eyes will turn to the last automatic qualification spot of the 2024 UEFA Euro Qualifiers in the remaining seven matches of the final Matchday. The nation who could automatically secure a place in the Finals will come from either 2022 FIFA World Cup second runners-up Croatia or Wales in Group D, where the former are currently second at 13 points, while the latter are trailing two points behind.
Croatia will play Armenia at Stadion Maksimir and Wales will host the already-qualified Türkiye at Cardiff City Stadium tonight. Be sure to catch all the actions at AsiaSport.com and stay tuned to our instant updates at OtherLeague.com about these matches as well!