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Luka Modric: The football was ruthless as Italy equalized against Croatia in the 98th minute

Luka Modric: The football was ruthless as Italy equalized against Croatia in the 98th minute
Luka Modric: The football was ruthless as Italy equalized against Croatia in the 98th minute


Luka Modric branded football as cruel and ruthless after Croatia were all but eliminated from the 2024 European Championship with a 98th-minute equalizer in Italy.

Modric's second-half goal appeared to have sent Croatia through to the knockout stages, with Mattia Zaccagni leveling the scores in stoppage time.

The 1-1 draw moved Italy into second place in Group C at the expense of Croatia, qualifying for the last 16. Croatia has a slim chance of reaching the knockout stages as the best team in third place, but having only taken two points from the three group matches, this remains highly unlikely.

We kept fighting until the end, but unfortunately the football tonight was merciless, the football was cruel, Modric said. Not only today, but also in our last match when we conceded a late goal (in the 95th minute against Albania).

When you lose like that, it's hard to find the words to describe how you feel. Of course we have to bounce back, but that's how it is. Maybe it's unfair because we all fought for Croatia from the first to the last whistle. The football gods do not always smile on us.

Modric saw a penalty saved by Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma early in the second half before opening the scoring after 55 minutes. Donnarumma had made a reflex stop to deny Ante Budimir, but Modric reacted quickest and poked home the opening goal.

Modric was named man of the match in Leipzig (Boris Streubel UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

At the age of 38 years and 289 days, the goal made the Real Madrid midfielder the oldest player to score in the European Championship, surpassing the previous record set by Austrian Ivica Vastic at Euro 2008, aged 38 years and 257 to dawn.

The result and Croatia's expected departure could mean Modric has made his final appearance at a major tournament.

I'd also love to play forever, but there will probably come a time when I have to hang up my boots, he added. I'll keep playing, but I don't know for how much longer.

A win for Croatia would have seen them progress to the last 16 as runners-up in Group B and would have allowed Italy to rely on results elsewhere to qualify as the best team in third place.

But substitute Mattia Zaccagni, who was only introduced in the 82nd minute, curled a first-time effort into the top corner with just one minute of stoppage time remaining.

Asked if it was the unluckiest match of his career, Modric could only compare it to Croatia's quarter-final loss to Turkey at Euro 2008, where his side thought they had won the match with Ivan Klasnic's goal in the 119th minute, after which Semih Senturk equalized. for Turkey in the 122nd minute.

It's hard to top the 2008 Turkey game, this game is probably pretty close, Modric said. It is certainly a very sad day for us and the Croatian national team

On Sunday, Italy will face Group A runner-up Switzerland in the last sixteen.

Croatia finished third in Group B with two points after the draw against Albania and the defeat against Spain. The top four teams in third place will qualify for the last 16 and only the third places in Group F and Group C can mathematically finish below Croatia ahead of their final round of group matches.

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Croatia 1 Italy 1: The Briefing – Zaccagni goal sends Italy through, Modric's minute of chaos and more beer throwing

(Top photo: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images)




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