Euro round-up: Italy progresses in the nick of time; Spain advances with perfect record

June 25, 2024 - 08:03
Up until the eighth minute of added time, Luka Modric and Croatia are still ensured of qualification into the Round of 16, but a single goal from Mattia Zaccagni turned everything on its head.
Italy's forward Mattia Zaccagni celebrates scoring during the UEFA Euro 2024 between Croatia and Italy at the Leipzig Stadium in Leipzig on June 24, 2024. — AFP/VNA Photo

Anh Đức

LEIPZIG In 1969, a British movie titled The Italian Job, whose plot centred around a gold heist, was a smash hit.

And on Tuesday, another Italian Job was well executed, as Italy snatched the golden ticket out of Group B in the final seconds.

Up until the eighth minute of added time, Luka Modric and Croatia were still ensured of qualification into the Round of 16, but a single goal from Mattia Zaccagni turned everything on its head.

A stunned Modric, who just seconds before Zaccagni's goal bit his shirt anxiously, had his greatest fear realised. The 38-year-old maestro could have been the hero for Croatia, was forced to be on the wrong end of a emotional rollercoaster ride.

The match was somewhat dull up until the 53rd minute, when Andrej Kramaric's shot hit the hand of Davide Frattesi inside the penalty area. VAR stepped in to confirm the penalty, but from the spot, Modric was denied by the colossal Gianluigi Donnarumma in a moment not many would have expected.

Croatia, as relentless as they have been throughout the last decade of international tournaments, kept on pushing forward, and got the opening goal just one minute later.

A deep cross from Luka Sucic found Ante Budimir, whose close range effort was saved by Donnarumma. The rebound however, found Modric who redeemed himself with a powerful strike into the top corner. The 2018 Ballon d'Or winner also became the oldest goal scorer at an European Championship in the process.

The goal sent thousands of Croatians in the stands at Leipzig Stadium into a frenzy for thirty minutes until that fateful ending.

With possible elimination on the line, Italy left only Donnarumma back to defend, while centre backs such as Riccardo Calafiori pushed higher. In the eighth minute of added time, Calafiori found Zaccagni free inside Croatia's box with a great pass, and the Lazio striker, with all the space and time he needed, curled the ball spectacularly into the top corner of Dominik Livakovic's net, silencing the Croatians.

Ferran Torres scored the only goal of the match as Spain beat Albania. — AFP/VNA Photo

Flawless group stage for Spain

Elsewhere in Dusseldorf, Spain eliminated Albania and ended their group stage in style with three victories.

Before the match started, underdogs Albania also had a chance to qualify, should a tall task of beating Spain be completed.

Having already qualified, Luis de la Fuente rotated most of his squad from the 1-0 victory against Italy, with only Aymeric Laporte remained.

Albania, similar to their past two matches, pushed on early to find the opening goal. The men in red found success with this play against Italy and Croatia, but the third time was not the charm for them, as it was Spain who opened the scoring through Ferran Torres in the 13th minute.

Some glimmer of hope for Albanian fans was presented as Spain created rare gaps in defence, one of which was almost capitalised by Kristjan Asllani in the 44th minute.

Spain slowed down play in the second half and in the process, tightened their defence, leaving no chance for Albania, who exit the tournament with their heads held high, knowing they've done to the best of their abilities.

De la Fuente's men ended the group stage with nine points, and a flawless record of zero goals conceded.

With these results, Spain and Italy advance from this year's 'Group of Death', while Croatia have to wait for all these three scenarios to play out: England win Slovenia by three goals or more; Czech Republic lose against Turkey and Georgia lose against Portugal in their respective matches.

These results also confirmed England's qualification into the Round of 16. — VNS

Previous match roundup here