Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Croatia 1-1 Italy: Modric makes Euros history but last-gasp stunner sends Azzurri through

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 24 Jun 2024

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Luka Modric’s history-making goal for Croatia proved fruitless as Mattia Zaccagni’s last-gasp screamer sent Italy through into the last 16 of Euro 2024 after a 1-1 draw.

Modric became the oldest player to score at the Euros when he slammed in from close range in the 55th minute – just 33 seconds after missing a penalty – and Croatia seemed all set to progress in second place from Group B, but Italy substitute Zaccagni had other ideas.

With a sumptuous side-footed finish deep into the final throngs of stoppage time, Zaccagni claimed a point for the Azzurri, ensuring the holders will face Switzerland in the round of 16 on Saturday.

Croatia, on the other hand, with just two points from their three matches, seem destined to miss out on one of the best third-placed finishes.

Zlatko Dalic’s team completed 329 passes in the first half – only against Scotland in June 2021 (337) have they completed more passes in a half at the Euros – but bar Luka Sucic’s fizzing effort, they hardly tested Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Indeed, Dominik Livakovic was the busier of the two goalkeepers, and he had to be at his best to deny Alessandro Bastoni an opener.

Yet, the pace swiftly picked up in a frantic couple of minutes after the break, when Italy substitute Davide Frattesi was penalised for handball following a VAR review.

After seeing his penalty saved by Donnarumma, Modric stayed alive to lash home on the rebound when a cross was worked back into the area, with Italy’s goalkeeper having excellently denied Ante Budimir.

Bastoni should have restored parity just after the hour, only for the defender to head over after meeting a corner unmarked.

Gianluca Scamacca failed to meet Federico Chiesa’s teasing cross as Croatia looked all set to head through, but there was to be one last twist.

Having come on in the 81st minute, Zaccagni showed great composure to produce a piece of magic and send the holders through.

A fond farewell?

That might well be it for Modric, not just at the European Championship but at major tournaments as a whole. If it is the way he goes out, after his 16th appearance at the Euros, then he has done himself proud.

At 38, he made history, etching his name into the Euros record books.

By the time he left the pitch in the 80th minute, Modric had played a team-leading 23 passes into the final third and won possession on six occasions, another team-high.

He looked distraught at the end, and at 38, surely that is the end for him at the European Championships, and maybe even major tournament football?

Donnarumma pulls through

Donnarumma was the star of the show for Italy at Wembley three years ago, with his saves in the shootout win over England.

The three seasons that have followed have not been the best for the former Milan goalkeeper, who has made some high-profile errors for Paris Saint-Germain.

Yet, he was on excellent form in Leipzig, making that exceptional penalty save and then an even more impressive stop to thwart Budimir, only to see Modric pick up the pieces when no defender reacted.

Having become the youngest goalkeeper to play 10 matches at the Euros in the history of the competition (aged 25 years and 120 days), Donnarumma did not deserve to be on the losing side, and Zaccagni’s moment of brilliance ensured that was not to be the case.

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