Ukraine eye first major tournament since Russian invasion

Ukraine eye first major tournament since Russian invasion


"Russia attacked Ukraine with 30 missiles last night. Missile attacks are happening every day

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Paris (AFP) – Ukraine will bid to qualify for a first major tournament since Russia's invasion of the country when they take on Iceland in a Euro 2024 play-off final on Tuesday, while Georgia target history against Greece.

Serhiy Rebrov's Ukraine missed out on the 2022 World Cup, losing in the play-offs to Wales, but will be favourites against Iceland in Wroclaw, Poland.

They appeared set to miss out when trailing Bosnia and Herzegovina late on in Thursday's semi-final, but kept their hopes of reaching the tournament in Germany alive with goals from Roman Yaremchuk and Artem Dovbyk.

"I told the players before the game that I hoped they would bring a bit of happiness to the people in Ukraine right now," Rebrov told reporters.

"Russia attacked Ukraine with 30 missiles last night. Missile attacks are happening every day. "Our mission and goal here are to show that we are still alive, that we are still fighting against the Russians, that we need Europe's help."

Rebrov, a former Tottenham and West Ham striker who made 75 international appearances, took over in June last year but could not lead Ukraine to automatic qualification as they were edged out for second place in Group C by reigning champions Italy on head-to-head record.

Iceland have not reached a major tournament since the 2018 World Cup but have continued to punch above their weight, beating Israel 4-1 last week to move within one win of returning to the championship in which they famously reached the quarter-finals in 2016.

Ukraine made the last eight three years ago, their best performance at a Euro, before losing 4-0 to eventual runners-up England. A spot in Group E at the Euros, with matches against Belgium, Slovakia and Romania, is up for grabs.

Georgia on brink

Georgia could qualify for a major finals for the first time as an independent nation when they host former winners Greece.

Willy Sagnol's side set up the clash with Greece by seeing off Luxembourg 2-0 and will be boosted by the return of star forward Khvicha Kvaratskhelia from suspension.

Frenchman Sagnol has said he will likely leave either following the Greece match or after the Euro if Georgia qualify. The winners will be placed in Group F for the tournament proper, alongside Portugal, the Czech Republic and Turkey.

The only other time Georgia have even come close to qualifying for a major tournament was when they suffered a 1-0 loss to North Macedonia in the play-off final in 2020.

Greece have only reached the Euro four times, most recently in 2012, but will be desperate to qualify to mark 20 years since their remarkable title triumph against the odds in Portugal.

Wales are hoping to reach a fourth international tournament in five attempts having previously been absent from the top level since 1958, when they host Robert Lewandowski's Poland in Cardiff.

The winners will go into a strong Group D at the finals with Austria, the Netherlands and France. "We've been there and done it, we know what we have to do, it doesn't faze us," Wales manager Rob Page told BBC Radio Wales.

"We've had a taste of major tournaments and we quite like it."