Ukraine coach Serhij Rebrov has praised opponents Italy for their behaviour before and after their Euro qualifier in which Ukraine narrowly missed direct entry to the 2024 tournament due to a 0-0 draw.

The Italian players and fans had applauded in a gesture of support when the Ukrainian national anthem was played before kick-off Monday, and the Italy team applauded their opponents again after the final whistle when the Ukraine squad gathered at the centre circle.

"That was very emotional. They showed us respect and support," Rebrov said.

The coach added he was also grateful to the German hosts in Leverkusen where Ukraine played their final home game of the campaign, with matches in Ukraine not possible since the start of Russia's invasion of the country last year.

"I like playing in Germany a lot and I think my players do as well. Everyone was very friendly towards us. We are very grateful that they gave us the opportunity to play in this great stadium and supported us," Rebrov said.

The goalless draw saw title holders Italy sneak through to the Euro finals in Germany along with group winners England, tied on points with Ukraine but having won their head-to-head thanks to a 2-1 success in the reverse fixture in September.

Ukraine meanwhile will have another chance to reach a fourth straight Euros via play-off ties in March.

"We gave our best until the final whistle and we are going to the play-offs with pride," captain Taras Stepanenko said.

"After the final whistle we thanked our supporters for their great help. They came here from all over Europe, they were amazing. Now we have time to prepare for the play-offs in the best possible way. If we manage to stay healthy, we have a good chance of doing well."

Rebrov said: "We all know that the war in Ukraine is continuing. It is quite tough for the players. They are always looking at their mobiles and watching the news.

"It is not easy in this kind of atmosphere. But all players showed character and fought for their country.

He added in reference to the tough group with the 2021 winners Italy and runners-up England that "even in Ukraine not many believed in us. But we fought until the last game."

2023-11-21T09:36:52Z dg43tfdfdgfd