Defiant Ukraine vow to fight on despite Euro 2024 setback
Published on: November 21, 2023 09:42 (EAT)
Ukraine's forward #18 Oleksandr Pikhalonok (L) and Ukraine's midfielder #10 Mykhaylo Mudryk shake hands after the final whistle of the UEFA EURO 2024 Group C qualifying football match between Ukraine and Italy at the BayArena Stadium in Leverkusen, western Germany on November 20, 2023. (Photo by LEON KUEGELER / AFP)
Ukraine coach Serhiy Rebrov said his side would fight on despite missing out on automatic qualification for Euro 2024 after Monday's 0-0 draw with Italy.
While Italy qualified second from Group C behind England courtesy of a better head-to-head record with Ukraine, Rebrov's team need to get through the play-offs to reach next year's finals in Germany.
Monday's fixture in Leverkusen was the latest of Ukraine's 'home' fixtures to be played at neutral grounds, with matches moved away from the war-torn nation.
"As all of you know, the war in Ukraine is continuing," Rebrov told reporters.
"It is quite hard for the players, they're always watching their phones, they're watching the news, same as me.
"In this atmosphere, it is not easy to work.
"But we understand we are presenting as a very strong country and I think today on the pitch all the players showed that we have character and that we fight for our country."
Chelsea forward Mykhailo Mudryk was denied a penalty in added time when he appeared to have been tripped by Italy midfielder Bryan Cristante.
"From my point of view that was a penalty, but again I was not there and it's only about my emotions," Rebrov added.
Ukraine are bidding to qualify for a fourth straight European Championship.
Rebrov believes his side could gain strength from the support they have received while playing their home fixtures in different cities and countries -- even from their opponents.
"I'm pleased Leverkusen gave us this opportunity to play in this beautiful stadium and to support us," he said.
"The players from Italy and the Italian supporters were all there for us.
"It's a really emptional thing, I'm sure this game showed for lots of countries the support of Ukraine and the atmosphere in the stadium was very good."