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Zaccagni Strikes in 98th Minute to Secure Italy's Place in Euro 2024 Last 16

Zaccagni Strikes in 98th Minute to Secure Italy's Place in Euro 2024 Last 16illustration

In a dramatic conclusion, Mattia Zaccagni scored in the final minute of stoppage time to earn Italy a crucial point, breaking Croatian hearts and ensuring the defending champions advanced to the last 16 of Euro 2024.

Luka 's second-half goal seemed poised to send Croatia through as the Group B runner-up. However, Zaccagni's precise shot found the far post in the eighth minute of added time, culminating a relentless push by Italy.

Croatia's coach Zlatko Dalic expressed his frustration over the extended stoppage time after his team's resilient performance.

“You can't have eight minutes of added time after that game, it's nonsense,” Dalic said. “There weren't so many breaks in play, or so many fouls to justify that. I don't want to cause a fuss but I think Croatia needs to be acknowledged and respected. We played for almost three hours.”

Italy needed only a to progress, while Croatia needed a win to maintain their tournament hopes. With two points from three games, Croatia now depends on other results to advance as one of the best third-place finishers. Dalic, however, seemed resigned to elimination.

Italy will face Switzerland in the round of 16 on Saturday at Berlin's Olympiastadion, the venue for the final on July 14.

“We were a bit soft at times in the game, we didn't produce our best football,” Italy coach Luciano Spalletti said. “When you can afford to draw the game, that's how it goes, you know a draw is enough, you are a bit more timid.”

Spalletti responded firmly to concerns about his team trailing into stoppage time.

“Worries and concerns are part and parcel of this job,” he said. “We did what we needed to do.”

Modric scored 33 seconds after having a penalty saved by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, making him the oldest goal-scorer in the tournament's history. At 38 years and 289 days, Modric broke the record held by Ivica Vastic, who was 38 years and 257 days when he scored for Austria against at Euro 2008.

Following Modric's penalty miss, Croatia immediately pressed again, with Donnarumma saving a shot from Ante Budimir. Modric capitalized on the rebound in the 55th minute, igniting celebrations among Croatian fans.

Italy responded with increased urgency, with Alessandro Bastoni heading just over the bar as they sought the equalizer. A loss could have jeopardized their advancement, depending on other game outcomes.

Modric continued to contribute defensively until he was substituted to standing ovations in the 80th minute.

“He wasn't tired,” Dalic explained, adding that he wanted to give his star player a rest.

Italy's persistent pressure finally paid off in the last moment with Zaccagni's curling shot, ensuring their progression to the next stage of the tournament.

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