Defending champions Italy, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have qualified for next year's European Football Championship finals in Germany (18 June to 20 July 14) as participants number 14 to 2024. European champions Italy trembled in Leverkusen in the showdown of Group C against Ukraine for the final tournament next summer. In other finals, the Czech Republic beat Moldova 3-0 (1-0) in Group E and Slovenia beat Kazakhstan 2-1 (1-0) in Group H.
Italy, who were only spectators at the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals, had to fear more than hoped in the mostly open exchange of blows with Ukraine, who were hardly less courageous in the BayArena. It was only the final whistle that redeemed the Squadra Azzurra. Ukraine will get another chance to participate in the European Championship in the play-offs next spring.
Slovenia and the Czech Republic on course for victory
In Ljubljana, Bundesliga ace Benjamin Sesko finally put Slovenia on course for participation in the European Championship against rivals Kazakhstan. After Leipzig's converted penalty (41'), the visitors only managed to get a temporary equaliser through Ramazan Orasow (48') before Benjamin Verbic (86') sealed the win for the home side. However, the Kazakhs can still buy the ticket to Germany in the play-offs.
The Czech Republic allowed less tension in Olomouc against Moldova. With Leverkusen's Adam Hlozek as the only Bundesliga legionnaire in the starting line-up, the hosts kept the underdogs at bay largely effortlessly due to the early lead through David Doudera (14th), even without Hlozek's club colleague Patrik Schick (calf injury). The necessary point was never in danger, especially as the guests could only play with a man down for the last 35 minutes after a yellow and red card against Wladislaw Baboglo. Tomas Chory (72') and Tomas Soucek (90') removed the last doubts about the Czech Republic's return to the European Championship.
All three "winners of the day" will travel to Germany as group runners-up. In front of Italy, the European Championship runners-up England, who had already been determined as group winners, remained unbeaten at the end of the elimination due to a 1-1 (0-1) advantage thanks to the equalising goal of Bayern Munich's star striker Harry Kane. Due to the head-to-head comparison, the Czech Republic could not get past Albania, who successfully defended the top spot with a 0-0 draw against the Faroe Islands. The Slovenians were also level on points with group winners Denmark (0-2 in Northern Ireland).
As hosts, Germany was automatically confirmed as the European Championship starter. The last place in the 24-team field of participants to be awarded via the regular elimination will be played out on Tuesday in Group D by World Cup bronze medallists Croatia and Wales in a long-distance duel. 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 out in the play-offs at the end of March in three tournaments with four teams each.