Ukraine and Italy shared the spoils in a tepid 0-0 draw at Leverkusen’s BayArena in the pivotal UEFA 2026 European Championship qualifying game. Gli Azzurri weathered a late storm to book tickets to Germany, where they will defend their crown next summer.
Luciano Spalletti reshuffled his deck following a 5-2 demolition of North Macedonia. Domenico Berardi surrendered his place at right-wing to Nicolo Zaniolo, while Davide Frattesi replaced Giacomo Bonaventura in the midfield. Alessandro Buongiorno’s inclusion at the expense of Juventus’ Federico Gatti was perhaps the biggest surprise, considering Gianluca Mancini stayed on the bench.
Spalletti’s tactical alterations worked magic as Italy outclassed Ukraine in the first half. But despite creating several clear-cut chances, Gli Azzurri had nothing to show for it, with the final touch letting them down on each occasion. On the bright side, they reduced the Ukrainians’ attacking threats to a minimum.
However, the dynamics changed after halftime, with Ukraine understandably taking more risks in red-hot pursuit of a much-needed winner. As the match progressed, Italy looked more and more satisfied with a draw. Ukraine almost made them pay in stoppages.
Mykhailo Mudryk beat Bryan Cristante to the ball inside Italy’s penalty area before going to the ground. Despite the Ukrainians’ shouts, referee Jesus Gil Manzano waved play on, handing Spalletti and the entire Gli Azzurri bench a massive relief.
Gianluigi Donnarumma – 7.5
Made a confidence-boosting diving save in the early stages to deny Georgiy Sudakov’s attempt from the edge of the box. Continued to reel off impressive stops after the break.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo – 7
Unlucky not to score on the stroke of the half-hour mark. Connected his header with a corner-kick delivery at the near post but missed the target by a whisker.
Alessandro Buongiorno – 6.5
Endured a challenging start to the game after picking up a 7th-minute booking for a reckless tackle. Luckily, recovered quickly to put in an impressive showing during the rest of the game.
Francesco Acerbi – 7
Inter’s veteran defender barely put his foot wrong tonight. In addition to his well-documented aerial dominance, the experienced center-back was impressive on the ground.
Federico Dimarco – 6
Not as proficient as in his recent club outings. Enjoyed a fair share of the ball but was atypically indecisive in dangerous areas.
Nicolo Barella – 6.5
Worked his socks off to help Italy gain a foothold in the middle of the park in the first half with his typically energetic performance. But focused more on his defensive duties after the break.
Jorginho – 6.5
Another trademark ‘Jorginho display!’ Reluctant to take risks when in possession, the Arsenal midfielder often opted for the simplest passes.
Davide Frattesi – 7
Wasted a clear-cut chance to break the deadlock midway through the first half as Anatoly Trubin pulled off a stunning leg save to thwart him in a one-v-one.
Federico Chiesa – 7
Had a glorious chance to put Italy in front inside the first five minutes, but caught Nicolo Zaniolo’s layoff all wrong. Even without scoring, the Juventus talisman was one of Italy’s best outfield players tonight.
Giacomo Raspadori – 6.5
Despite failing to create a chance for himself, the Napoli forward was one of the most influential figures in the first half. His quick thinking and elusive movements off the ball opened spaces for his attacking comrades.
Nicolo Zaniolo – 6
After being heavily involved in Italy’s attacks during the early stages, the West Ham forward vanished from the pitch. Nowhere to be seen in the second half.
Gianluca Scamacca – 6
His towering attacking presence enabled Spalletti’s side to play long balls and trust him to retain possession in tight spaces. But a lack of service into the box denied him a chance to score.
Matteo Politano – 4
Almost invisible since coming on.
Bryan Cristante – 6.5
Helped Italy tick over under pressure by providing an additional layer of cover to his backline.
Moise Kean – 5
Bereft of the ball as Italy had no intention of going forward down the final stretch.
Matteo Darmian – N/A
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