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Euro 2024: Ukraine goes home – the most bitter elimination of the Euro

Euro 2024: Ukraine goes home – the most bitter elimination of the Euro
Euro 2024: Ukraine goes home – the most bitter elimination of the Euro

After the preliminary round, the European Championship is over for Ukraine. An incredibly bitter exit – not only because of the war at home, but also because of the tournament format.

The table doesn’t lie, as they say in football. And in European Championship Group E, the table also speaks the truth mercilessly: Ukraine is in fourth place and is the last to be eliminated in the preliminary round. Deserved, you might think. But a closer look at the circumstances shows how bitter the exit really is for Ukraine.

The Ukrainians certainly didn’t play a bad tournament. After a bad start against Romania (0:3), they fought their way into the tournament, turned the game around against Slovakia (2:1) and drew 0:0 with the notoriously highly rated Belgians, where they even had a chance of winning in the final phase. That’s four points in total – one more than Slovenia’s haul in Group C, but they are still in the round of 16.

Euro 2024: Ukraine goes home – the most bitter elimination of the Euro

Pale Belgians in the round of 16, Ukraine eliminated – all highlights in the video

05:54 min

Euro 2024: Ukraine better than third in group

The reason for this is the controversial third-place rule: the four best third-placed teams in the preliminary rounds advance to the next round. UEFA apparently did not consider – or simply ignored – the possibility that a fourth-placed team could also achieve a better preliminary round result than a third-placed team that actually qualified. Even a second-placed team, Denmark, has fewer points than Ukraine.

If you compare the teams across the groups, it seems more logical, in terms of fairness and performance, to let Ukraine advance to the round of 16 as fourth. Even though coach Serhiy Rebrov accepted the situation soberly: “We knew from the start that it would be calculated like this.” An elimination can hardly hurt more than that: Ukraine has to go home.

The war always played a role

But what does home mean? Due to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which has been raging for almost two and a half years, many players cannot return to their homeland. Despite all attempts to create a little normality, especially in sport, the war was always a factor. For coach Rebrow and his team, it was about more than points and goals; they wanted to give their fellow countrymen hope, distraction and a reason to be happy. A mission that can quickly become an overwhelming burden for a football team.

The players’ performance in playing a strong European Championship despite this mental strain is all the more impressive. And Ukraine would have been even more deserving of a place in the round of 16 – especially since they would have deserved to progress on sporting grounds.

Source: Stern

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