Luciano Spalletti admits Ukraine ‘proved they are a very good team who gave us a lot of problems’ and now ‘the level steps up’ as Italy qualified for EURO 2024.
The Azzurri knew a point would be sufficient to reach the European Championships next summer in Germany, but it was even tougher than expected this evening with Ukraine.
A 0-0 draw was just about scraped, thanks also to some controversial refereeing, because Bryan Cristante appeared to trip Mykhaylo Mudryk in stoppages.
“Nothing could be taken for granted in general. We had a good game, the first half saw many chances to secure the result. Once we didn’t do that, the match became more physical and at that stage it was no longer about football,” Spalletti told RAI Sport.
“We had to keep attacking, but Ukraine proved they are a very good team who gave us a lot of problems.”
Ukraine remain unbeaten on ‘home’ turf in this qualifying group, even though due to the war they were forced to play all their home fixtures on neutral turf, such as in Leverkusen this evening.
At the final whistle, Spalletti took time to hug all the players individually, as well as the members of his staff and the FIGC such as Gigi Buffon.
“I know these situations very well. I was born and raised in these situations, this is my profession. I went to salute all my collaborators, the President, the Federation entourage, as we all cared a lot about this result and it was only right we have that moment to pat ourselves on the back.
Italy have secured their place in the European Championship next summer and are in Pot 4 for the draw, which is to be held on December 2.
“Now the level steps up. Now the fun begins!”