Italy books spot in KO stage with last minute equalizer

Italy books spot in KO stage with last minute equalizer
SunStar Boxing

LEIPZIG, Germany — Italy substitute Mattia Zaccagni scored in the last minute of stoppage time for Italy to advance to the knockout stage of the European Championship after drawing Croatia 1-1 on Monday.

Luka Modric’s second-half strike looked like sending Croatia through as the Group B runner-up, but Zaccagni swept a brilliant shot inside the far post in the eighth minute of added time to cap a furious finale from the defending champions.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic was unhappy, so much time was added after a battling performance from his side.

“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 a point to progress, while Croatia realistically needed a win to stay in the tournament. The Croatians have two points from their three games and were at the mercy of other results to see if it’s enough to scrape through as one of the best third-place finishers.

Dalic made no mention of waiting. He already believes his side is out.

Italy will face Switzerland in the round of 16 on Saturday in Berlin’s Olympiastadion, where the final is 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.”

But Spalletti bristled at a question, asking if he was concerned about his team trailing going into stoppage time.

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

Modric scored 33 seconds after having a penalty saved by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to become the oldest goal-scorer ever at the tournament.

Modric, at 38 years, 289 days on Monday, broke the record held by Ivica Vastic, who was 38 years, 257 days, when he scored for Austria against Poland at Euro 2008.

After Modric’s penalty miss, Croatia immediately attacked again and Donnarumma had to save a shot by Ante Budimir. Modric pounced on the rebound in the 55th minute. / AP

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