Mattia Zaccagni kept Italy’s European Championship title defence alive with an incredible late equaliser in the holder’s thrilling 1-1 draw with Croatia, as Spain completed a perfect group stage and showed Albania the door.

Italy are in the last 16 of Euro 2024 after forward Zaccagni struck a superb equaliser with almost the last kick of the game in Leipzig, sparking an explosion of joy among the Italian fans and even a sprint up the line from 65-year-old coach Luciano Spalletti.

The Azzurri will play Switzerland in the next round thanks to Zaccagni, who came on with nine minutes remaining and curled in his leveller in the eighth minute of stoppage time following a brilliant burst and pass from defender Riccardo Calafiori.

Croatia meanwhile are all-but out due to Zaccagni's late equaliser just as it looked as if Luka Modric was once again going to be the hero for his country.

Modric defied his advancing years by firing Croatia into the lead nine minutes after the break and becoming the oldest goalscorer in Euros history.

At 38 years and 289 days old, Modric broke the record set by Austrian Ivica Vastic in 2008, pouncing on a rebound after Gianluigi Donnarumma made an incredible save from Ante Budimir's point-blank range header.

Modric made up for Donnarumma pushing away his penalty just moments before, but his goal wasn't enough and on two points third-placed Croatia's hopes are hanging by a thread.


Spain earn clean sweep in group

An early Ferran Torres strike gave Spain’s second-string side a 1-0 win over Albania as the three-time champions finished the group stage with a perfect record and the defeat eliminated their opponents.

Barcelona winger Torres finished off a fine move in the 13th minute in Duesseldorf to puncture the atmosphere in a stadium filled with a majority of noisy Albanian fans.

However, this game was not a cruise for a Spain team showing 10 changes to the side which started their 1-0 victory over Italy four days earlier.

Spain had already secured top spot in Group B, but Albania knew they realistically needed a win to go through and that made for a frantic encounter at times, particularly as they pushed forward in the second half.

Despite their best efforts, Albania go home after picking up only one point and finishing bottom of a difficult section.

Spain coach Luis de la Fuente can now turn his full attentions to a last-16 tie in Cologne on Sunday against an as-yet unknown third-place finisher.


Text from AFP