LEVERKUSEN, Germany — Ukraine coach Serhiy Rebrov has said UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin made his players “angry” when he said it would be a “disaster” for Euro 2024 if Italy fail to qualify for the tournament.
Reigning European champions Italy face Ukraine the German city of Leverkusen on Monday — all of Ukraine’s Group C home games have been played at neutral venues due to the Russian invasion of the country — needing to avoid defeat to qualify for next year’s finals in Germany.
A win for Ukraine would secure qualification for Rebrov’s team, however, and force Italy into the playoffs. Italy missed out on both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups after losing in the playoffs, prompting Čeferin to say last month that he wanted them to reach the finals of Euro 2024.
“Italy must qualify for Euro 2024, otherwise it will be a disaster,” Čeferin told Italian media outlet LaPresse. “The Italian national team is too important, but I think it will beat Ukraine.”
Čeferin’s comments were met with incredulity in Ukraine, though, and Rebrov, the former Dynamo Kyiv, Tottenham and West Ham forward, said in his pre-match press conference in Leverkusen that the remarks have only served to further motivate his players to secure the runners-up spot in the group behind already-qualified England.
“We’re not interested in what he [Čeferin] has to say,” Rebrov said. “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.
“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.”