Ukraine, Georgia and Poland are going to Euro 2024 after late drama in qualifying playoffs

Ukraine, Georgia and Poland are going to the 2024 European Championship after bringing late drama to win emotional qualifying playoffs on Tuesday
Ukraine's Oleksandr Zinchenko, left, and Ukraine's Artem Dovbyk celebrate at the end of the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Ukraine and Iceland, at the Tarczynski Arena Wroclaw in Wroclaw, Poland, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

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Ukraine's Oleksandr Zinchenko, left, and Ukraine's Artem Dovbyk celebrate at the end of the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Ukraine and Iceland, at the Tarczynski Arena Wroclaw in Wroclaw, Poland, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Ukraine found another late winning goal in another comeback win. Georgia and Poland held their nerve in penalty shootouts. All are going to the European Championship.

The 24-nation Euro 2024 lineup was finalized Tuesday with three qualifying playoffs giving a stronger eastern European flavor to the tournament that opens June 14 in Germany.

Mykhailo Mudryk’s sweeping low shot in the 84th minute lifted Ukraine to a 2-1 victory over Iceland and a second late comeback win in the playoffs for a team representing the war-torn country.

The “home” game for Ukraine was played in neutral Poland because international games cannot be played in Kyiv for security reasons during the military invasion by Russia, whose team UEFA banned from trying to qualify.

Ukraine fans’ displayed yellow-and-blue banners criticizing Russia and its president Vladimir Putin in the stadium in Wroclaw.

“A big thank you to our fans," Ukraine midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko said, "they helped us through these difficult times amazingly.”

Georgia and star forward Khvicha Kvaratskhelia will make their major tournament debut at Euro 2024 after beating Greece 4-2 in a penalty shootout. It had been a tense and testy 0-0 draw in a raucous atmosphere in Tbilisi.

Wild celebrations saw thousands of Georgia fans in a 50,000 crowd at the national stadium pour onto the field and some climbed the goalposts to sit on the crossbar.

Poland became the last team to book its ticket to Germany, beating Wales 5-4 in a penalty shootout in Cardiff also after a 0-0 draw.

Poland captain Robert Lewandowski, who had scored the first spot-kick of the shootout, could not bear to watch the action when his goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny pushed away the final penalty taken by Dan James.

“It’s big because I probably would have finished my international career tonight had we lost the game,” Szczęsny said.

Poland will go into a tough Group D with France, the Netherlands and Austria.

Ukraine is in Group F with Belgium, Romania and Slovakia.

Georgia goes into Group F to face Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

Euro 2024 will be played in 10 German cities from June 14 to July 14.

UKRAINE’S MOMENT

Two years ago, Ukraine fell just short in playoffs to reach the 2022 World Cup, eventually losing to Wales with a team emotionally drained from the effort four months into their homeland’s invasion.

Ukraine would not be denied this time and twice within five days rallied in the second half and found a late goal to win 2-1. Last week, Coach Serhiy Rebrov’s had trailed 1-0 in Bosnia-Herzegovina until the 85th.

In a game of stunning goals, Iceland led in the 30th on Albert Gudmundsson' s curling shot.

Viktor Tsygankov leveled in the 54th from just outside the Iceland penalty box, close to the spot where Chelsea winger Mudryk would win the game 30 minutes later.

Ukraine starts against Romania in Munich on June 17, then plays Slovakia in Düsseldorf on June 21 and top-seeded Belgium on June 26 in Stuttgart.

GEORGIA RISING

Georgian players have been European champions before — in the Soviet Union squad that won the inaugural title in 1960.

Now the independent republic has earned the right to make its own soccer history in Germany.

The decisive penalty Tuesday was scored by substitute Nika Kvekveskiri placed his perfect shot low into the corner to seal Georgia’s 4-2 win.

Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili had saved the first Greece spot-kick, by captain Tasos Bakasetas, then Giorgos Giakoumakis pulled his shot wide of the goal.

Georgia will start against Turkey on June 18 in Dortmund, then play the Czechs on June 22 in Hamburg, and finish against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal on June 26 in Gelsenkirchen, at the home stadium of Schalke.

Georgia’s French coach Willy Sagnol knows the territory well after nine years playing for Bayern Munich.

Georgia followed North Macedonia, a debutant at Euro 2020, in taking the path opened by UEFA for a low-ranked team to rise to the big stage via their results in the Nations League competition.

Georgia and Greece played the final of a playoffs knockout bracket open only to teams that performed well in third-tier groups of the Nations League in 2022, before they failed to finish in the top two of a traditional Euros qualifying group last year.

LEWANDOWSKI'S FOURTH

Poland has played at every Euros edition since its star forward Lewandowski made his national-team debut in 2008, including as co-host with Ukraine at Euro 2012.

Now 35, he should be back to lead the team in Germany in a group that should have an emotional pull for him.

Poland starts against the Netherlands on June 16 in Hamburg, moves to Berlin against Austria on June 21 and finishes the group against France on June 25 in the stadium where Lewandowski starred for Borussia Dortmund for four years.

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Ukraine's Mykhailo Mudryk, right, celebrates at the end of the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Ukraine and Iceland, at the Tarczynski Arena Wroclaw in Wroclaw, Poland, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

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Georgia's Nika Kvekveskiri celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal during a penalty shootout at the end of the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Georgia and Greece at the Boris Paichadze National Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Tamuna Kulumbegashvili)

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Georgia's goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili reacts after his save during a penalty shootout at the end of the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Georgia and Greece at the Boris Paichadze National Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Tamuna Kulumbegashvili)

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Georgia's fans celebrate the victory of their team in the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Georgia and Greece at the Boris Paichadze National Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Tamuna Kulumbegashvili)

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Poland players celebrate after defeating Wales in a penalty shoot out during their Euro 2024 soccer play-off match at Cardiff City Stadium, Wales, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

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Poland's goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saves a penalty from Wales Daniel James during Euro 2024 soccer play-off match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium, Wales, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

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Poland players celebrate with goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny after defeating Wales in a penalty shoot out during their Euro 2024 soccer play-off match at Cardiff City Stadium, Wales, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (David Davies/PA via AP)

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Georgia's Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, centre, argues with Greece's Petros Mantalos during the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Georgia and Greece at the Boris Paichadze National Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Tamuna Kulumbegashvili)

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Georgia's Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, right, controls the ball as Greece's Konstantinos Mavropanos tries to stop him during the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Georgia and Greece at the Boris Paichadze National Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Tamuna Kulumbegashvili)

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Ukrainian fans support their team prior the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Ukraine and Iceland, at the Tarczynski Arena Wroclaw in Wroclaw, Poland, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

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Ukraine players sing national anthem prior the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Ukraine and Iceland, at the Tarczynski Arena Wroclaw in Wroclaw, Poland, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

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Georgia's fans walk to the stadium prior to the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Georgia and Greece at the Boris Paichadze National Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Tamuna Kulumbegashvili)

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Wales Kieffer Moore, centre, attempts a shot on goal during Euro 2024 soccer play-off match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium, Wales, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

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Wales Neco Williams, right, and Poland's Nicola Zalewski compete for the ball during Euro 2024 soccer play-off match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium, Wales, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

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Poland fans light flares during Euro 2024 soccer play-off match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium, Wales, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

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Welsh players Kieffer Moore and Ben Davies compete to head the ball at goal during Euro 2024 soccer play-off match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium, Wales, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

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Ukraine players celebrate at the end of the Euro 2024 qualifying play-off soccer match between Ukraine and Iceland, at the Tarczynski Arena Wroclaw in Wroclaw, Poland, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

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