Ukraine coach Serhiy Rebrov was 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.’
Going into the final EURO 2024 qualifier, the Ukrainians knew only a victory would see them get through to the tournament directly, as anything less meant the play-offs.
It ended 0-0, but in stoppages 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.
Inevitably, that was the first question 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.