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Euro 2024: Zaccagni’s injury-time goal against Croatia sends Italy to round of 16

Luka Modric’s 55th minute looked to send Croatia to the next round, but Mattia Zaccagni’s late equalizer ensured defending champions Italy will play Switzerland in the round of 16.

Mattia Zaccagni scored a 98th-minute equalizer as defending champions Italy booked a place in the last 16 of Euro 2024 on Monday with a 1-1 draw against Croatia, whose tournament hopes were left hanging by a thread, and then They will face Switzerland.

Luka Modric gave Croatia a lead in the 55th minute, moments after missing a penalty, and that appeared to put them through before substitute Zaccagni produced a stunning finish following Dominik Livakovic’s desperate dive into the far corner.

The result left Italy second in Group B with four points, with Croatia third, but they now wait anxiously to see if two points will be enough to progress to the knockout stage as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Spain, who topped the standings, beat Albania 1-0 to finish with a perfect record in their three matches and leave the Albanians eliminated in last place with one point.

Albania’s defeat also propelled the teams not in action into the last 16, with England, France and the Netherlands now guaranteed to finish at least among the four best third-place finishers.

Italy had been shaken by the defeat to Spain, which might have been more emphatic than the 1-0 scoreline, but if there was any consolation for Luciano Spalletti’s side heading into Monday’s game it was that Croatia had been even less impressive in the final.

The Croats’ 3-0 defeat against Spain and the 2-2 draw with Albania had left them on the brink of the precipice and one of the main problems that had dogged them during the tournament: how to turn possession into a goal threat, He resurfaced in the first half against Italy.

Croatia barely gave the Italians a kick for most of the first 20 minutes, but unsurprisingly they only had a long-range piledriver from Luka Sucic, which was parried away by Gianluigi Donnarumma, to show for their efforts.

Italy looked much more determined with Mateo Retegui having a couple of half-chances before Alessandro Bastoni had the best chance of the first half, meeting Nicolo Barella’s lofted ball at the far post with a header saved by Dominik Livakovic.

However, just a few minutes into the second half when Croatia were awarded a penalty. Andrej Kramaric’s shot hit the outstretched arm of half-time substitute Davide Frattesi and, as referee Danny Makkelie called for play-on, the VAR sent him to look at the screen and he quickly changed his mind.

Modric stepped up to take the penalty, but his attempt was brilliantly saved by Donnarumma low to the goalkeeper’s left, although it was only a momentary respite for Italy.

Seconds later, a header from Croatian half-time substitute Ante Budimir led to another superb save from Donnarumma, but Modric was on hand to devour the rebound, which he fired into the roof of the net to make up for his missed penalty.

Italy pushed hard to get back into the game and substitute Gianluca Scamacca came within inches of connecting with a cross in the 87th minute.

However, as Croatia fans began to celebrate what they thought would be a victory, Italy dealt a devastating blow at the last moment.

(Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Kebn Ferris)

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