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Euro 2024 Group B – Spain perfect, late Italy goal causes chaos

When the 2024 European Championship groups were drawn, many people pointed to Group B as one to watch.

As the defending champions, fans were eager to see whether a declining Italy side could match the levels they showed three years ago.

Then there were also Spain and Croatia, who met in last summer’s Nations League final. The former have won three European Championships and a World Cup, while the latter have achieved top-three finishes in the last two World Cups.

Albania expected to be the whipping boys of the group. They put up an admirable showing but were unable to claim more than one point.

Spain easily topped the group. They won all three games without conceding a goal – Portugal are the only other side with a 100% record.

Croatia and Italy battled it out for second place, and it seemed as if Zlatko Dalic’s men were on course for the knockout stage thanks to Luka Modric’s finish.

However, Mattia Zaccagni’s 98th-minute equaliser sent the Azzurri back into second spot, leaving their opponents in a desperate situation.

What Next?

Through: Spain, Italy
TBC: Croatia
Eliminated: Albania
Top scorer: Alvaro Morata, Fabian Ruiz, Dani Carvajal, Nedim Bajrami, Alessandro Bastoni, Nicolo Barella, Qazim Laci, Andrej Kramaric, Klaus Gjasula, Ferran Torres, Luka Modric, Mattia Zaccagni (one each)

Spain were already guaranteed to finish in first place, regardless of their result against Albania. Their round of 16 tie will be on Sunday against a third-placed team from Groups D, E or F.

Italy will feature in the first knockout game of the tournament, facing Switzerland in Berlin on Saturday. The pair met at Euro 2020, with the four-time world champions winning 3-0.

Croatia are still in with a chance of progressing, but their hopes look bleak. They need England to beat Slovenia by at least three goals and require favours from Portugal, Turkey and one of Denmark and Serbia.

This was only Albania’s second major tournament. While they may have cursed their luck to have landed in such a tricky group, they gave a good account of themselves nonetheless.

Elsewhere at Euro 2024, England, France and Netherlands are all guaranteed to be in the knockout stages, although their positions in their groups are undecided.

Standout Performer – Fabian Ruiz

Alongside Rodri and Pedri, Fabian Ruiz is arguably the weakest of Spain’s midfield three on paper. However, he has been the main man for La Furia Roja.

The 28-year-old began the campaign with a fantastic performance in his side’s 3-0 thumping of Croatia.

He sent Alvaro Morata through on goal for the opener, then got on the scoresheet three minutes later.

The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder followed this with another excellent display in their next outing against Italy.

He was rested for the final match against Albania but will almost certainly return to the starting XI for the round of 16.

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