Defending champions Italy, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have qualified as participants numbers 18 to 20 for the final round of the European Football Championship next year in Germany (June 14 to July 14, 2024). However, European Championship champion Italy was shaking in Leverkusen in the Group C showdown against Ukraine for the final tournament next summer. In other finals, the Czech Republic won in Group E against Moldova 3-0 (1-0) and Slovenia won in Group H against Kazakhstan 2-1 (1-0).
Italy, who were only spectators at the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals, had to fear more than they had hoped in the mostly open exchange of blows with Ukraine, who were hardly less courageous, in the BayArena. Only the final whistle released the Squadra Azzurra. Ukraine will have another chance to take part in the European Championship in the playoffs next spring. In Ljubljana, Bundesliga player Benjamin Sesko finally put Slovenia on course towards participation in the European Championship against rivals Kazakhstan. After a penalty from Leipzig (41′), the guests were only able to temporarily equalize through Ramazan Orasow (48′), before Benjamin Verbic (86′) completed the home team’s success. However, the Kazakhs can still get their ticket to Germany in the playoffs.
Albania defends the top spot in its group, Ukraine still has a chance
The Czech Republic allowed less tension against Moldova in Olomouc. With Leverkusen’s Adam Hlozek as the only Bundesliga legionnaire in the starting line-up, the hosts largely effortlessly kept the outsiders in check thanks to the early lead through David Doudera (14th), even without Hlozek’s club colleague Patrik Schick (calf injury). The necessary point gain was never in danger, especially since the guests only played outnumbered in the last 35 minutes after a yellow-red card against Wladislaw Baboglo. Tomas Chory (72nd) and Tomas Soucek (90th) removed the last doubts about the Czech Republic’s renewed participation in the European Championship.
All three “winners of the day” will travel to Germany as runners-up in their group. Ahead of Italy, the European Championship runners-up England, who had already won the group, remained unbeaten at the end of the elimination round thanks to a 1-1 (0-1) score thanks to the equalizing goal from Bayern Munich’s star striker Harry Kane. Due to the direct comparison, the Czech Republic could not get past Albania, who successfully defended their lead with a 0-0 draw against the Faroe Islands. The Slovenians also had to finish on equal points behind group winners Denmark (0-2 in Northern Ireland).
As hosts, Germany was automatically confirmed as a starter for the European Championship. The last place in the 24-team field of participants to be awarded through the regular elimination will be played in a long-distance duel in Group D on Tuesday by the World Cup third-placed Croatia and Wales. The remaining three places in the second final tournament in the 63-year history of the European Championship on German soil after the premiere 35 years ago will be played in the playoffs at the end of March in three tournaments with four teams each.
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