Mudryk nets Ukraine winner to qualify for Euro 2024


Ukraine's manager: This win is for our people

Serhiy Rebrov talks about Ukraine's 2-1 win over Iceland to secure their place at Euro 2024.

Ukraine's tears of despair turned to joy after qualification for the Euro 2024 soccer tournament was achieved with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Iceland in their playoff final held in Wroclaw Stadium in Poland on Tuesday.

Viktor Tsygankov and Mykhailo Mudryk scored second-half goals as it was mission accomplished in a campaign where Ukraine have been forced to play "home" fixtures in Slovakia, Czechia, Germany and Poland following Russia's February 2022 invasion of the country that sparked a war which still rages.

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Albert Gudmundsson had put Iceland ahead in the first half, but they surrendered possession and the initiative as they struggled to contain Ukraine for much of the contest.

It is a fourth straight visit to the continental finals for Ukraine, who take their place in Group E with Belgium, Slovakia and Romania, against whom they open their campaign on June 17.

"Thank you boys! Thank you to the team! For proving once again that when Ukrainians face challenges but refuse to give up and continue the fight, they invariably win," Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a message on Telegram.

Chants of "Ukraine, Ukraine" rang around the stadium, the scenes of jubilation and yellow and blue flags waving not far removed from what might be expected if the game were in Kyiv.

Mykhailo Mudryk celebrates after scoring the goal that qualified Ukraine for Euro 2024.
Mateusz Porzucek/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

Poland is home to a large number of refugees from the war, many of whom will have been in the stadium to witness one of their team's greatest triumphs given the circumstances.

It makes up for the country missing out on the last World Cup following a playoff defeat by Wales and for the second game running they had to come from behind to secure victory after snatching a 2-1 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Thursday's semifinal.

"I think this is a very important victory for the entire Ukrainian people, for our soldiers," coach Serhiy Rebrov told reporters.

"I am very happy for the players, because these two [playoff] games were very difficult and nerve-wracking. Both before and after the matches, we said that these victories are for our country, people, defenders who defend our freedom.

"Everyone understands how important this victory is."

For the second game running, Ukraine had to come from behind to secure victory.

Gudmundsson scored a sublime goal to give Iceland the lead on the half-hour mark as he gained possession just outside the box, beat two defenders to make the space and rifled a precise shot into the corner of the net.

The start of the second half was frenetic, and Ukraine drew level with a fine equaliser.

Tsygankov was picked out on the right wing and cut inside, drifting into a central position before firing low into the bottom corner of the net with his left foot.

Ukraine keeper Andriy Lunin made a superb stop to deny Jon Thorsteinsson, sprawling to his left to claw away a curling effort from just inside the area, and it was Ukraine who then found the winning moment.

Mudryk scored only his second international goal as he latched onto a cutback from Georgiy Sudakov and buried the ball into the net, as well as Iceland's hopes, leaving Ukrainians to celebrate a victory that gives their team a place in Germany.

"We were still in it when it was 1-1," Iceland winger Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson told newspaper Morgunbladid.

"Then comes the second goal and we've spent an incredible amount of energy trying to keep [the scores level], so that's what completely changed the game."