Italy secure Last 16 spot with dramatic draw against Croatia

Dutch referee Danny Makkelie interacts with Croatia’s midfielder #10 Luka Modric and Italy’s midfielder #18 Nicolo Barella during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Croatia and Italy at the Leipzig Stadium in Leipzig on June 24, 2024. — AFP  

Mattia Zaccagni’s stunning last-minute goal secured Italy a place in the Euro 2024 knock-outs with a dramatic 1-1 draw against Croatia in a tense Group B clash on Monday.

The 38-year-old player Luka Modric became the oldest goalscorer in the competition’s history with his 55th-minute strike, moments after Gianluigi Donnarumma saved his penalty. With his goal, Modric broke the record set by Austrian Ivica Vastic in 2008.

Modric’s goal seemed to have secured Croatia’s place in the next round, but Zaccagni’s brilliant 98th-minute strike pushed Italy to second place behind Spain. Italy will face Switzerland in the last 16. Meantime, Croatia’s fate hangs in the balance, depending on other results this week.

“It’s very stressful,” Modric said.

“We kept battling until the end but unfortunately, football was merciless with us tonight.”

Despite Croatia’s struggles, coach Zlatko Dalic decided to keep the trio of Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, and Mateo Kovacic in the match.

Luka Sucic forced a fine save from Donnarumma. Italy played defensively and saw a rare chance with Mateo Retegui’s deflected header.

Croatia’s goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic made a stunning save to deny Alessandro Bastoni. Dalic’s strategic changes, including bringing on powerful striker Ante Budimir, paid off as Croatia looked more threatening in the second half.

Italy’s Luciano Spalletti, shifting to a 3-5-2 formation, saw his team struggle against a dominant Croatia. But Zaccagni’s late heroics shattered hopes of Croatian fans.

Modric was named player of the match. Talking about his future he said, “I’ll keep playing on, I don’t know for how much longer.”

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