Euro 2024 Play-Off Eliminator: Ukraine & Georgia Through, Wales Miss Out

Ukraine qualified for the finals of their first major tournament since being invaded by Russia. They were able to comeback against Iceland and pushed ahead with a Mykhailo Mudryk game-winner to advance.

Ukraine trailed 1-0 at half-time after Albert Gudmundsson was able to put Iceland ahead with a great strike from outside the box. 

Ukraine players line up for the team photo prior to the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs final match between Ukraine and Iceland
IMAGO / NurPhoto

Ukraine didn’t give up though, pushing hard in the second half for the equalizer. It all paid off when Viktor Tsygankov was given the opportunity to drift in from the right flank and find the bottom corner of the goal. 

Then in the 84th minute, Mudryk drilled one into the same corner as Tsygankov to set the Ukrainian fans into a frenzy.

Ukraine has made a habit of coming back against their opposition. They were also able to recover from a goal down to beat Bosnia and Herzegovina in Thursday’s play-off semi-final.

It was despair for Iceland who were aiming to reach the finals for only the second time in their history. Their best run into the Euros was the quarter finals they reached back in 2016.

Ukraine will go into Group E at the Euro 2024 finals, alongside Belgium, Slovakia and Romania.

While Belgium will likely be the favourites in the Group, Ukraine should have a solid chance to make the next round if they play well.

Georgia Make History

For the first time ever, Georgia was able to qualify for a major tournament. They just squeaked in through a penalty shootout win over Greece in their Euro 2024 play-off. The shootout was won 4-2, coming after a tense goalless draw in regulation.

Home substitute Nika Kvekveskiri was the hero as he scored the winning penalty, pushing on past the outstretched arms of the Greek keeper Odysseas Vlachodimos.

The closest anyone came to breaking the deadlock in regulation was Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos. He hit the crossbar hard with a powerful header from a corner but couldn’t convert.

There wasn’t much to speak of outside of the one close call as both teams fought hard to keep the ball out of their box. In the end, it all came down to penalties with the Georgian team coming out better on the day.

There were huge celebrations as the Georgian supporters ran on to the pitch to congratulate their players. This was the first time since the national side played their inaugural match in 1990 that Georgia was able to qualify for a major tournament. This was their 15th attempt.

Georgia will join Turkey, Portugal and the Czech Republic in Group F at the finals in the summer. With both Portugal and Czech Republic in the group, Georgia will need to play out of their skins to make it past the first round.

Wales Comes Agonizingly Close

Wales ended up agonizingly close to qualifying for Euro 2024 but just missed out, suffering a penalty shootout defeat in their play-off final against Poland. It was a huge disappointment in Cardiff after a scoreless match in regulation time. 

Poland ended up winning 5-4 in the penalty shoot-out, just inching past their opponent in the final moments. In what was a first shootout for Wales’ men in a competitive match and Daniel James was the only one to miss a spot-kick. Poland on the other hand were able to convert all five of their penalties.

It was an especially painful loss for Wales considering that the Poland side had failed to even get a single shot on target during the entire 120 minutes before the shootout.

This was the first time Wales have failed to qualify for a European Championship since 2012.

Poland will go on to join France, Netherlands and Austria in Group D. France are the obvious choice to advance from the Group but there will be plenty of competition for the second slot between the remaining 3 teams.

The Euro 2024 finals will start on Friday, 14 June at the Allianz Arena in Munich. The tournament will then go on until Sunday, 14 July, with the final at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.