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European Championship | Group Stage
Jun 24, 2024 at 8pm UK
Red Bull Arena

1 - 1

Modric (55')
Sucic (24'), Modric (60'), Ivanusec (73'), Pongracic (78'), Stanisic (82'), Brozovic (90+1')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Zaccagni (90+8')
Calafiori (90+3'), Fagioli (90+6'), Spalletti (90+9')

Italy through to Euro 2024 last 16 with dramatic Croatia draw

:Headline: Italy through to Euro 2024 last 16 with dramatic Croatia draw:
Italy strike in the last minute of added time to hold Croatia to a 1-1 draw and make the last 16 of Euro 2024, finishing second in Group B.
Sports Mole

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.

Livakovic save highlight of tepid first half

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.

Modric heroics meaningless as Zaccagni sends Italy through

Both managers responded to first-half drabness with a solitary alteration at the break - Davide Frattesi replaced Pellegrini while Mario Pasalic made way for Ante Budimir - and it was Croatia's alteration that had the desired effect.

Seven minutes into the second period, an Andrej Kramaric strike hit the outstretched arm of Frattesi, leading to Danny Makkelie to point to the spot after a quick check of the monitor, but Modric was thwarted by Donnarumma.

The Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper dived to his left and saved Modric's weak attempt, but Croatia kept the attack alive, and after Budimir was then denied by another fabulous close-range save from Donnarumma, none other than Modric himself was there to fire in the rebound for an immediate slice of redemption and history.

At 38 years and 289 days old, Modric became the oldest man to ever score at a European Championships, although that record will only stand for as long as Cristiano Ronaldo goes scoreless in Germany.

Modric's rifled finish into the roof of the net triggered an instantaneous response from Spalletti's crop, who ought to have drawn themselves level in the 62nd minute but for another wasted set-piece; Bastoni was the offender once more, heading a near-post delivery over the top.

It was backs against the wall as far as Croatia were concerned for the closing stages, and they survived a massive scare in the 87th minute, when Josip Stanisic did just about enough to prevent substitute Scamacca from latching onto a Federico Chiesa ball across the six-yard box.

Italy were blessed with eight minutes of injury time to pick the Croatian lock, and just as it appeared that Dalic's men would hold out, Riccardo Calafiori laid off Zaccagni on the left, and the Lazio man's beautiful first-time curler rippled the top corner to spark Azzurri delirium.

Man of the Match

There was little that Donnarumma could have done about Modric's rebound, but the Euro 2020 winner more than earned his stars otherwise, making three crucial saves to deny Croatia their much-needed victory.

From the Real Madrid man's penalty, Budimir's close-range effort just before Modric's opener and the fifth-minute Sucic drive, Donnarumma cut his usual formidable figure in between the posts when Italy needed it most, but a special shout-out to Zaccagni's assister Calafiori too.

What next for Italy and Croatia?

As Group B runners-up, Italy's last-16 opponents will be Switzerland - who finished second in Group A - and if a miracle happens, Croatia could face the winner of Group E or Group F victors Portugal in the knockout rounds.

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