European champions Italy took a significant step towards their title defence after a 2-1 win over Ukraine. Meanwhile, Spain and Belgium secured comfortable victories on their path to Euro 2024, while Sweden are struggling to qualify for the first time in 28 years.
Romania and Kosovo completed a game that was nearly abandoned due to political pro-Serbia chants from home fans in Bucharest. The match was delayed by 45 minutes in the first half and the players were sent back to their locker rooms. The match was likely to be forfeited with a 3-0 loss, but late goals secured a 2-0 win for Romania. However, the national federation will be facing punishment in a UEFA disciplinary case.
In one of the most crucial matches of the evening, Italy secured a thrilling 2-1 win over Ukraine, intensifying the race for second place in the group led by England. Two first-half goals by Inter Milan midfielder Davide Frattesi, playing in his home stadium at San Siro, gave new coach Luciano Spalletti his first win after a tense draw against North Macedonia on Saturday. Italy’s improved performance survived a goal by Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko before halftime.
Both teams are now tied on seven points, trailing England by six. As such, there could be a decisive final-round game between Ukraine and Italy on November 20, with one team securing a place at Euro 2024. The other will face uncertainty in the playoffs next March, just as Italy had experienced in the past two World Cup qualifiers.
🤯 16 years old.
— UEFA EURO 2024 (@EURO2024) September 12, 2023
In another match, Spain demonstrated a calm and composed performance on the field. They managed a resounding 6-0 victory over Cyprus, following a 7-1 win against Georgia. They are now six points behind group leader Scotland whom they will face on October 12. Then, they will play their last game against Norway three days later.
Norway, featuring stars Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard, won 2-1 against Georgia, maintaining their slim hopes of a top-two finish. The playoffs remain a safety net for Norway.
Sweden’s chances are dwindling in Group F as Belgium easily defeated Estonia 5-0. Sweden suffered a 3-1 home loss against Austria, leaving coach Janne Andersson committed to his position despite the team’s struggles. Sweden have qualified for six consecutive Euros but are now seven points behind Belgium and Austria with three rounds remaining. Their next challenge is an away match against Belgium on October 16.
In Group I, Switzerland, Romania, and Israel are locked in a tight battle for two qualifying spots. Late goals secured a crucial win for Romania, while Israel also found a late goal to defeat Belarus 1-0. Switzerland won 3-0 against Andorra. Switzerland lead Romania by two points, with Israel one point further behind, and each team has four games left. Israel will host Switzerland on October 12.