Mattia Zaccagni’s Euro 2024: Italy Secures Knock-Out Spot with Last Gasp Goal against Croatia

Mattia Zaccagni’s goal in a thrilling Group B match sent Italy into the Euro 2024 knockout stages by clinching a vital 1-1 draw against Croatia.

With significant moments and outstanding performances, this exciting encounter took place on Monday amid fierce rivalry and enormous stakes.

Mattia Zaccagni’s Euro 2024: Italy Secures Knock-Out Spot with Last Gasp Goal against Croatia
Mattia Zaccagni of Italy bends in his incredible, match saving goal. Photo Credit: Sky Sports

In an intense Group B match on Monday, Italy advanced to the Euro 2024 knockout stages thanks to a fantastic last-minute goal by Mattia Zaccagni against Croatia, which ended in a 1-1 tie. While Croatia is in danger of losing but may possibly advance based on other outcomes later in the week, Italy advances in second place behind the champions, Spain, and will play Switzerland in the round of 16.

Zlatko Dalic’s club is unlikely to finish among the top four third-place teams with just two points, but it is yet feasible. Just 33 seconds after Gianluigi Donnarumma saved the 38-year-old’s penalty, Croatian midfielder Luka Modric scored his goal after 55 minutes, making him the oldest goalscorer in the competition’s history.

Though it appeared to be enough for his team, in the 98th minute, Zaccagni struck a beautiful goal into the top corner during a break to take Italy over what was called a “group of death”. Dalic decided to strengthen the midfield after conceding five goals in the opening two games, starting Mario Pasalic and Luka Sucic among four changes.

The coach also decided to stick with the starting lineup of Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic, and Luka Modric, even though they struggled in the 2-2 draw against lowly Albania and the 3-0 loss to Spain. After Italy’s 2-1 victory against Albania, Luciano Spalletti’s team lost 1-0 to Spain and switched to a 3-5-2 shape, benching Federico Chiesa of Juventus.

Croatia controlled the first few plays against a resolute Italy team, aware that a draw would advance them to the next round, where they would finish behind group winners Spain. 21-year-old RB Salzburg midfielder Sucic forced Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma into a superb early save with a powerful strike from range during his maiden appearance of the competition.

On a rare foray forward, Azzurri forward Mateo Retegui’s header was nearly missed at the other end. The two-time winners were content to slow down play and squander time at throw-ins and corners as early as the 20th minute. The holders took control without taking any chances as Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic produced a spectacular stop to deny Alessandro Bastoni, who was found by Nicolo Barella’s inviting cross.

Also Read: Netherlands Eyeing Top Spot in Euro 2024 Group: A Clash with Austria Looms

For the second half, Dalic, who led Croatia to the World Cup semifinals in 2022 and the championship game in 2018, substituted the strong striker Ante Budimir. His crew had a focal point, which made them appear more menacing right away. They also quickly realized their reward. After Andrej Kramaric’s strike was handled by Italy replacement Davide Frattesi, a VAR review awarded Croatia a penalty.

33 seconds after Donnarumma parried Real Madrid midfielder Modric’s effort, the seasoned player was unstoppable. After that, with Croatia applying more pressure, the Italian goalkeeper produced another excellent stop from Budimir, and Modric finished strong from close range to score the rebound.

He broke Austrian Ivica Vastic’s 2008 record for the oldest goalscorer in the European Championship by thirty-two days. With ten minutes remaining, Modric was substituted, and a few Italian fans even gave the playmaker a standing ovation as they anxiously watched the ticking clock.

Croatia believed they had made headway, but in the eighth and last minute of stoppage time, Zaccagni crushed their hearts.

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