Fans have come up with a UEFA conspiracy theory after Ukraine were denied a late penalty against Italy in Monday night’s high-stakes European Championship qualifier.
Reigning European champions Italy secured the point they required in a 0-0 draw against Ukraine to qualify for Euro 2024 as Group C runners-up behind Gareth Southgate’s England.
A 2-1 win in the reverse fixture meant Italy only had to avoid defeat against Ukraine, whom they were level on points with ahead of the crucial encounter.
The frantic match, which was being played in the German city of Leverkusen due to ongoing conflict in Ukraine, ended goalless to simultaneously confirm the Azzurri’s place in next summer’s finals and see the third-place Ukrainians qualify for the play-offs in March.
There was a hugely dramatic moment in second-half stoppage time when Ukraine’s Mykhailo Mudryk went down in the area under a challenge from Bryan Cristante.
This led to massive calls for a penalty from the Ukraine players and bench, as well as fans on social media.
However, Spanish referee Jesus Gil Manzano waved away the appeals and VAR opted not to overturn his decision – despite replays appearing to show contact.
Indeed, journalist Ben Jacobs described the incident as Mudryk being “clearly fouled in the box in injury time. Penalty somehow not given.”
Others were stunned that a spot-kick was not awarded. One person said: “1000000% penalty. And I’m Italian.” Another wrote: “Woeful decision.”
A third added: “Ukraine absolutely robbed and will not qualify for the Euros.”
However, another contingent of fans claimed Mudryk had “dived”.
Those who fell in the former camp also highlighted that UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin had insisted that Italy “must” qualify for next summer’s Euros days before the game.
“Italy must qualify for Euro 2024, otherwise it will be a disaster,” Ceferin told Italian media outletLaPresse. “The Italian national team is too important, but I think it will beat Ukraine.”
Such comments stirred up conspiracy theories and groundless claims of UEFA corruption on social media, but also angered Ukraine coach Serhiy Rebrov, who said that the UEFA president had made his players “angry”.
Italy qualify for Euro 2024 after a 0-0 draw vs. Ukraine. But late controversy… Mudryk clearly fouled in the box in injury time. Penalty somehow not given. A Ukraine win would have sent them through at Italy’s expense.🇺🇦🇮🇹
— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) November 20, 2023
“We’re not interested in what he [Ceferin] has to say,” Rebrov said before kick-off. “It’s not our job to focus on such comments.
“But all that they can really do is have an impact on my players to make them more angry and motivated to qualify.
“I think we have a good chance. This game is different to the game in San Siro [when Italy won 2-1 in September].
“It will be a full stadium supporting us. We played in Bremen recently and had big support, lots of Ukrainians. I am sure it will be same here, a full stadium with our flags. It is going to be different.
“It is one thing to play against North Macedonia or Malta, with respect, but when we play England or Italy, it is different.
“This is a game when we have to show our face. We made lots of mistakes in Italy, but we understand our responsibility in this game and what we have to do.”