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Mattia Zaccagni’s Late Goal Sends Italy to Euro 2024 Knockouts, Croatia in Limbo

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Dramatic Finish Seals Italy’s Spot

Mattia Zaccagni’s incredible last-minute strike secured Italy’s place in the Euro 2024 knockout stage with a dramatic 1-1 draw against Croatia in a tense Group B match on Monday. Italy moves forward in second place behind Spain and will face Switzerland in the last 16. Meanwhile, Croatia’s future hangs in the balance, with slim hopes of progressing depending on other results.

Modric Makes History

Croatia’s veteran midfielder Luka Modric became the oldest goalscorer in the history of the European Championship with his goal at the 55-minute mark. This came just seconds after Italy’s goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma, saved Modric’s penalty. Despite Modric’s heroics, it was Zaccagni who stole the show with his stunning strike in the 98th minute.

Croatia’s Tactical Changes

After conceding five goals in their first two matches, Croatia’s coach, Zlatko Dalic, made several changes to strengthen the midfield. He brought in Mario Pasalic and Luka Sucic, while maintaining the core trio of Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, and Mateo Kovacic, despite their struggles in previous games.

Italy’s Strategic Adjustments

Italy, coached by Luciano Spalletti, also made tactical adjustments. Following a 2-1 win over Albania and a 1-0 loss to Spain, Spalletti switched to a 3-5-2 formation and left Juventus’ Federico Chiesa on the bench. This formation aimed to secure a draw, which would ensure Italy’s progression.

Croatia’s Early Dominance

From the start, Croatia dominated possession against a defensively organized Italian side. Luka Sucic, on his first tournament start, forced a brilliant save from Donnarumma with a powerful long-range shot. Italy’s approach was to slow the game down, aiming to frustrate Croatia.

Key Moments

In a rare attack, Italy’s forward Mateo Retegui saw his header deflected narrowly wide. Croatia’s goalkeeper, Dominik Livakovic, made a crucial save to deny Alessandro Bastoni, who was found by Nicolo Barella’s cross. As Croatia pushed for a goal, Italy focused on defending their ground.

Second-Half Changes

Dalic introduced striker Ante Budimir at halftime, giving Croatia a more direct attacking option. The change paid off as Croatia won a penalty following a handball by Italy’s Davide Frattesi. Although Donnarumma saved Modric’s initial penalty, the Croatian captain scored on the rebound, setting a new record as the oldest Euros goalscorer.

Nervous Ending

With Modric substituted in the closing minutes, Italy’s supporters watched anxiously as the game neared its end. Croatia believed they had done enough to advance, but Zaccagni’s stunning goal in the eighth minute of stoppage time changed everything, sending Italy through and leaving Croatia’s fate uncertain.

Italy’s dramatic draw against Croatia showcased the resilience and determination of both teams. While Italy celebrates advancing to the knockout stages, Croatia must wait and hope for favorable results in other matches. This thrilling encounter highlighted the unpredictable nature of the Euro 2024 tournament, setting the stage for more exciting football in the knockout rounds.