Ukraine join Poland and Georgia in qualifying for Euro 2024

football26 March 2024 23:28| © AFP

Ukraine came from behind to beat Iceland in a playoff to qualify for Euro 2024 on Tuesday, while Poland secured their place at the finals with a penalty shootout victory over Wales and Georgia qualified for a first-ever major tournament.

The Ukrainians were aiming to qualify for a first tournament since the Russian invasion of the country two years ago, and they did so by coming from behind to defeat Iceland 2-1 in a game played in the Polish city of Wroclaw.

Albert Gudmundsson silenced the crowd in a city with a large Ukrainian refugee population as he fired Iceland into the lead on the half-hour mark.

Iceland, with a population under 400 000, were hoping to return to the finals of a competition in which they reached the quarterfinals in 2016.

However, Euro 2020 quarterfinalists Ukraine equalised nine minutes after halftime thanks to a superbly taken goal by Viktor Tsygankov of Spanish side Girona.

Extra time was looming when Ukraine grabbed the winner with six minutes left as Chelsea's Mykhailo Mudryk swept home a first-time shot from the edge of the area.

"Thank you, guys! Thank you, team! For significant emotions for the entire country. For the important victory and making it to EURO. For proving once again: whenever Ukrainians face difficulties but do not give up and continue to fight, Ukrainians certainly win," Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on X.

Having narrowly missed out to Italy in their qualifying group and being forced into the playoffs, Ukraine can now look forward to the European Championship which begins in Germany on 14 June.

They will go into group E alongside Belgium, Slovakia and Romania and will have ambitions of progressing to the last 16.


Poland go into a difficult group D at the Euro along with France, the Netherlands and Austria after getting the better of Wales in a tense shootout at the end of their playoff final in Cardiff.

The match ended 0-0 after 90 minutes and there were no goals either in extra time, which ended with Wales having Chris Mepham sent off for a second booking.

A high-quality shootout, which began with Robert Lewandowski converting Poland's first kick, saw nine successful penalties before Daniel James had his effort saved and Wales lost 5-4.

There will be no third consecutive European Championship for the Welsh team, who were semifinalists in 2016, but Poland will be present at a fifth continental finals in a row.

"It's a cruel game, that's what I've said to the players, one kick away from qualifying. It hurts," Wales manager Rob Page told broadcaster S4C.

Earlier, Georgia made history by qualifying for a major international tournament for the first time since the country in the Caucasus of 3.7 million people gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

They beat Greece 4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw at the end of extra time in Tbilisi, sparking a pitch invasion from delighted fans at the Boris Paichadze Stadium.

Nika Kvekveskiri stroked in the decisive penalty for Georgia after Tasos Bakasetas and Giorgos Giakoumakis both failed to score from the spot for Greece.

Surprise European champions in 2004, Greece's defeat means their wait to qualify for a first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup goes on.

Ranked 77th in the world, a Georgia team coached by former France full-back Willy Sagnol will join Turkey, Portugal and the Czech Republic in group F at the European Championship.

"I would pay to feel what I feel today," said Sagnol after the game, speaking in English.

They had never come close to qualifying before, until losing in a playoff at the same stage for the last Euro, going down 1-0 at home to North Macedonia in 2020.