Euro 2024 Group Stage: Albania vs Croatia Ends in Thrilling 2-2 Draw

Albania held Croatia to a 2-2 tie in a thrilling Euro 2024 match on Wednesday, raising doubts about Croatia’s chances of making it out of the group round.

Albania’s Klaus Gjasula secured his team a crucial point with a crucial own goal and a thrilling equalizer in injury time.

Euro 2024 Group Stage: Albania vs Croatia Ends in Thrilling 2-2 Draw
Gjasula of Albania scored a late equalizer following an own goal. X /@EURO2024

Klaus Gjasula of Albania scored twice, including a dramatic equalizer in injury time, as the team played to a thrilling 2-2 tie on Wednesday, leaving Croatia in danger of losing in the group stages of Euro 2024. Following a depressing 3-0 defeat to Spain in their first match, Qazim Laci’s early goal for Albania in Hamburg put Croatia behind again. But after making two halftime adjustments, Croatia got better, and with 16 minutes to go, Andrej Kramaric tied the score before Gjasula accidentally pushed through his own net.

But in the fifth minute of injury time, the Albanian midfielder turned into a last-minute hero, shooting into the bottom corner to rescue a point for his club.

Croatia, who finished in the semifinals of the 2022 World Cup, would probably need to defeat Italy in their last Group B encounter on June 24 in order to advance to the tournament’s knockout round for the fifth time in a row. Forward Kramaric declared, “We will believe to the very end, to give our best as we did in this match.” “Unfortunately we didn’t win but we hope to be a bit luckier against Italy.”

Albania’s performances against Croatia and Italy, which they lost 2-1, have earned them a lot of praise. However, they were unable to maintain a lead in either match, and they will likely need to defeat Spain in order to have a chance to advance to the round of sixteen. Coach Sylvinho of Albania stated, “We have to move forward but we have to fight for every single point.”

It’s crucial to the survival of the federation, the nation, and each of us individually. We must savor the occasion because I’m proud of the players.” Croatia’s ‘golden generation’ are about to hobble out of a big tournament football match after being forced to pay for a subpar first half performance.

Instead of switching up his lineup from the loss to Spain, Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic stuck with his midfield trio of Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic, and Luka Modric. However, he moved Manchester City’s Josko Gvardiol into central defense by inserting Ivan Perisic as left back. Albania gets going quickly once more.

Outside the stadium, the fans of both sides generated one of the finest atmospheres of the tournament thus far, filling the air with the scent of flare smoke. Albania got off to a blazing start against Italy, scoring the fastest goal in the history of the European Championship in just 23 seconds.

This time, Sylvinho’s team needed to wait until the eleventh minute to break the deadlock. Sparta Prague midfielder Laci entered the area undetected and nodded in an inch-perfect, inswinging cross from Jasir Asani.

Albania remained the more formidable team despite Croatia’s attempts to force their passing style on them, as right-back Elseid Hysaj consistently found the back of the net.

Just after the half-hour mark, the underdogs had a chance to double their lead, but Dominik Livakovic denied Kristjan Asllani when the Croatian goalie faced-to-face.

Rey Manaj, the striker for Albania, wasted yet another fantastic opportunity when he couldn’t generate enough lift on his free header to give Livakovic any real trouble in first-half extra time.

In response, Dalic made two substitutions throughout the half: Mario Pasalic, 21, and Luka Sucic, 21, took the places of the ineffectual Lovro Majer and Brozovic.

Following those substitutions, Croatia quickly improved as Thomas Strakosha, the Albanian goalkeeper, made a wonderful stop to block Sucic’s left-footed drive, and Pasalic headed over a few seconds later.

Also Read: Germany Advances to Euro 2024 Knockouts with 2-0 Victory Over Hungary

Euro 2024 Group Stage: Albania vs Croatia Ends in Thrilling 2-2 Draw
Albania celebrates stunning Croatia with a late equalizer. @Sky Sports

In the 74th minute, Kramaric was found inside the box by replacement Ante Budimir, and he cut inside before finishing calmly inside Strakosha’s near post to give Croatia their first lead.

Two minutes later, Sucic’s close-range shot was blocked, but it bounced off the unlucky Gjasula and into an empty net, seemingly completing the reversal. Albania persisted, wasting many late opportunities as it seemed Croatia would hold on.

However, Gjasula had other ideas. Before a frenzied finish in which both teams threw bodies forward in an attempt to find a winner, to no effect, Gjasula swept a loose ball home.

Sylvinho: I will always remember this match

Sylvinho, the manager of Albania, stated:

“I am really pleased with the squad and believe we deserved the outcome. We battled from the heart, and that perfectly embodies this country.

“This team will benefit from this point for the remainder of their lives. We are a young national squad that is participating in this competition for the first time. We must step onto the field, battle with all of our might, and learn from Europe.”I will always remember playing this game.”

Goal scorer Qazim Laci of Albania, stated:

“This outcome will boost our self-confidence and enable us to continue forward. Although the match against Spain will be harder, we’ll give it everything we’ve got to win.”

Goal scorer Klaus Gjasula of Albania, stated:

“2-2 works well. We may have potentially scored the third one with a little bit of luck. Although we are aware of how tough the match against Spain will be, anything is possible in football. Everything is possible if we play like we did today.”

Luka Sucic, midfielder for Croatia, stated:

“This is quite disappointing; a team like ours shouldn’t have to deal with anything like this. It’s a lesson to be learned, but we were in the lead and ought to have concluded this peacefully.

“The way to start against the Italians is to play better in the second half.” I am an optimist and I think we can beat this group if we play like we did in the second half.”

Zlatko Dalic, the Croatian coach, stated:

“With two very contrasting halves, this was a challenging encounter. We put a lot of effort into taking a 2-1 lead, and in extra time, we scored. Getting a goal at the last minute is not easy.

“The second half was considerably better than the first, which is positive for the match against Italy; winning will help us advance. We’re still in the game, so we’ll get ready and try our hardest to continue.”

Andrej Kramaric, the top scorer for Croatia, stated:

“We were unable to produce anything during the first half. Of course, the picture changed in the second part. We exhibited far more aggression and dominance.

“This is football, and this is why everyone loves football,” is what I want to convey. Sometimes you allow a goal in the final seconds, and other times you score a goal to win. Sadly, it is exactly what transpired with us.”

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