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Euro 2024: Italy stuns Croatia, Spain advances with perfect record

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-06-25 09:46
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Italy's Gianluigi Donnarumma celebrates with coach Luciano Spalletti and Mattia Zaccagni after the match against Croatia of Group B at the Euro 2024 at Leipzig Stadium, Leipzig, Germany June 24, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

BERLIN -- Mattias Zaccagni's last-grasp 1-1 equalizer against Croatia sent reigning champion Italy through the Euro 2024 group stage while Spain capped a perfect Group B run with 1-0 win over Albania in the last round of group play on Monday.

Croatia started offensively minded knowing that only a win would see it progress into the round of the last 16.

Luka Sucic created the first clearcut chance with five minutes gone after unleashing a hammer from 20 meters, forcing Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to tip the ball around the post.

Italy needed some time to gain a foothold and came close in the 20th minute when Mateo Retegui headed Ricaardo Calafiori's cross goalwards.

Luciano Spalletti's men should have taken the lead before halftime but neither Alessandro Bastoni nor Lorenzo Pellegrini was able to overcome Croatia custodian Dominik Livakovic, who was equal to both promising efforts.

After the restart, Croatia grabbed the lead as Donnarumma initially defused Luka Modric's penalty attempt, but the Squadra Azzurra couldn't clear the ball from the area, allowing Modric to tap home another parry from Donnaruma from very close range.

Italy started an onslaught on Croatia's goal area as Spalletti's men needed a share of spoils to book their berth for the next round.

Bastoni came close with a header, but Croatia well positioned defence was able to keep Italy at bay. It looked like Croatia would go through with a narrow win, but Calafiori initiated a last attack before teeing up for Zaccagni, who curled the ball from the edge of the box into the top right corner to flabbergast Croatia.

In the other Group B encounter, front runner Spain extended its winning run to three games after eliminating Albania 1-0 with the sole goal from Ferran Torres.

With the results, Spain rounded off a perfect group stage with 9 points followed by Italy (4 points), Croatia (2 points) and Alabania (1 point).

The top two of each of the six groups and the best four third finishers will enter the round-of-16 knockout stage.

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