Euro 2024: Croatia devastated, Italy through to last 16 with dramatic draw

Reigning European champions Italy sneaked into the last 16 of Euro 2024 in the most astonishing circumstances thanks to a 1-1 draw with Croatia in their Group B finale.

Simply needing to avoid defeat to finish second in the section and join Spain – who bested Albania 1-0 – in the knockout rounds, Luciano Spalletti’s men failed to turn up and were on the cusp of being usurped courtesy of a history-making Luka Modric strike.

However, with the very last attack of the game, the Italians finally made their unrelenting pressure pay, as Mattia Zaccagni swept home a stunning equaliser mere seconds before Danny Makkelie’s whistle blew for the final time.

Both sets of players collapsed onto the turf at the end – Italy through elation and Croatia through agony – as the 2018 World Cup runners-up were condemned to a third-placed finish with just two points.

As a result, Croatia’s only slim hope of advancing to the knockout rounds will be if Slovenia lose to England by three goals on Tuesday night, although that scenario only applies if Slovenia fail to score more than once, otherwise the Chequered Ones will require a four-goal Three Lions success.

After public criticism from his manager about his on-field application, Gianluca Scamacca made way for Mateo Retegui at the tip of the Azzurri attack, which barely saw the ball in the opening exchanges.

Indeed, Zlatko Dalic’s side immediately assumed control of possession and forced Gianluigi Donnarumma into the first meaningful action with just five minutes gone, as Luka Sucic stung the goalkeeper’s palms with a long-range drive.

However, clear-cut chances were otherwise proving hard to come by for the Chequered Ones, who were defending incredibly narrowly and faced a barrage of crosses from a resurgent Italy outfit as the half wore on.

For the most part, Dalic’s side comfortably dealt with Italy’s poor deliveries, but one stunning cross from Nicolo Barella in the 27th minute should have led to the game’s opening goal, as the Inter Milan maestro kept the ball alive following a corner and found Nerazzurri teammate Alessandro Bastoni.

The centre-back was totally unmarked and had time to pick his spot either side of Dominik Livakovic, but his header was far too central, and the Croatia goalkeeper produced a fine stop to tip the ball over the top.

The Croatia number one was earning his stars in the opening period and also kept out a low Lorenzo Pellegrini drive in the 36th minute – which was bound for the far corner – but there was otherwise little to write home about for both sides in the opening 45.


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