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“Eight minutes of extra time was definitely not justified.”

“Eight minutes of extra time was definitely not justified.”

Luciano Spalletti has expressed great relief but also frustration after Italy's successful rise to the last 16 of the European Championship. The defending champion's coach was angry as a result of the 1-1 draw against Croatia and criticized his critics. However, the Croats were licking their wounds in light of their possible European Championship exit. Croatian star Luka Modric complained, saying: “We do not deserve to concede this equalizer.”

Modric gave the Croatians the lead in Leipzig in the 55th minute – just seconds after missing a penalty kick against goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma – and was named the oldest European Championship scorer at the age of 38 years and 289 days. ÖFB footballer Ivica Vastic, who was 38 years and 257 days old, was substituted in a 1-1 draw with Poland in 2008. But then the 98th minute came and Mateja Zakagni equalised. “Football is brutal sometimes,” Modric said in his first disappointment. “Today the match was tough for us. But that's how it is.” The Round of 16 will only be possible with significant support from several teams in Group C (Tuesday) and Group F (Wednesday) – the probability is close to zero.

The aging Croatian side had struggled very badly in Germany in the last few days, even before Italy's late equaliser. “We conceded an equalizer in stoppage time against Albania, and now again against Italy,” said team president Zlatko Dalic. “Everything went against us in this tournament. I can't blame my players. This was not our tournament.”

However, Dalic found critical words for the management of the game. “Eight minutes of extra time was certainly not justified today. There were no interruptions in the game and there were not many fouls. It bothers me that Croatia does not get respect and recognition. The game lasted too long.”

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Spalletti was also upset, albeit with the Italian media. The first question at the press conference was followed by a lengthy dialogue. He also spoke of a possible spy because the Italian reporter had inside knowledge that, in Spalletti's opinion, he should not have. “Clearly there is someone in the team who is leaking information and hurting the team,” Spalletti said.

The performance against Croatia once again gave the critics some form. The team looked frustrated against the combative third-placed team in the World Cup and was also short of ideas. There is no need to think about the European Championship title at the moment. La Repubblica newspaper described the Italians as “fragile.” The Corriere dello Sport newspaper wrote that the move forward was “in the last breath, when only optimists believed in it.”

Spalletti himself was cheering as rarely as possible after a stunning equalizer with former world champion and current team manager Gianluigi Buffon. The Italians' potential early failure after missing out on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was another low point for the Tifosi, and the luster of the 2021 title would have faded in one fell swoop. Switzerland now awaits the round of 16 on Saturday at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

Luciano Spalletti was happy and angry after the 1-1 draw

© Giba Pictures

“We have players with the quality needed to play these matches. But we make very trivial mistakes. We are better than what we saw, and he expects more from his players,” Spalletti told TV. At the press conference, he strongly defended these players, himself and his personal decisions. When asked about an alleged agreement with… During the week for the starting lineup, the team went into a rage.

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“How old are you?” He answered the questioner with an increasing voice. “51. I'm 65 years old. 14 years older than me. I'm always looking for a conversation with the players. I have to listen to my players. What's wrong with that if the starting lineup is the result of discussions?

However, the sky is full of fiddles for Italy's group rivals Spain, who also beat Albania 1-0 in Düsseldorf with B-Elf and were promoted on full points without conceding a goal – but still have to wait for their opponent. Given the previous supremacy, it is clear that coach Luis de la Fuente has put an end to the euphoria. The 63-year-old explained that the country has a “wonderful generation of players.” “But we have to keep our feet on the ground. We have to keep calm.”