Italy advances to Euro 2024 knockout stage with late equaliser, Spain completes perfect group stage

Mattias Zaccagni

25th June 2024 – (Berlin) Mattias Zaccagni’s dramatic last-grasp equalizer against Croatia ensured the reigning champion Italy’s progression to the knockout stage of Euro 2024. Meanwhile, Spain concluded the group stage with a perfect record, sealing a 1-0 win over Albania in the final round of group play on Monday.

Croatia started the match with an offensive mindset, knowing that only a victory would secure their place in the round of 16. Luka Sucic created the first significant opportunity five minutes into the game, unleashing a powerful strike from 20 meters that forced Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to make a fingertip save.

Italy took some time to find their rhythm but came close to scoring in the 20th minute when Mateo Retegui headed Ricaardo Calafiori’s cross towards the goal. Luciano Spalletti’s side had chances to take the lead before halftime, with Alessandro Bastoni and Lorenzo Pellegrini testing Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic, who made impressive saves to deny them.

After the break, Croatia broke the deadlock when Donnarumma initially saved Luka Modric’s penalty, but Italy failed to clear the ball, allowing Modric to score from the rebound at close range. Italy launched a relentless attack on Croatia’s goal, desperately needing a draw to secure their spot in the next round.

Bastoni came close with a header, but Croatia’s well-positioned defence managed to keep Italy at bay. It seemed Croatia would advance with a narrow victory, but Calafiori initiated one final attack and set up Zaccagni, who brilliantly curled the ball from the edge of the box into the top right corner, stunning Croatia.

In the other Group B match, Spain continued their dominance, securing a 1-0 victory over Albania thanks to a goal from Ferran Torres. With these results, Spain completed a flawless group stage with 9 points, followed by Italy with 4 points. Croatia finished with 2 points, while Albania earned 1 point.

As a result, Italy and Spain secured their places as the top two teams in Group B, advancing to the round-of-16 knockout stage. Unfortunately, Croatia and Albania were eliminated from the tournament. The top two teams from each of the six groups, along with the best four third-place finishers, will progress to the next stage of the competition.