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Euro 2024: Five takeaways as Albania’s late dramatic equaliser push Croatia into Group B troubles

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In a thrilling encounter at Euro 2024, Croatia and Albania battled to a 2-2 draw that provided plenty of drama and insight.

Here are the five key takeaways from this gripping Group B match.

1. Klaus Gjasula’s Rollercoaster Evening

Klaus Gjasula experienced the full spectrum of emotions in Hamburg. After scoring a devastating own-goal that put Croatia 2-1 up minutes after coming on as a substitute, Gjasula redeemed himself spectacularly by netting a stoppage-time equaliser.

His late goal ensured Albania earned their first point of the tournament and left them with the chance of qualifying for the knockout round heading into the last group games.

2. Croatia’s Defensive Vulnerabilities

Croatia’s defence appeared alarmingly shaky, particularly in the first half. Qazim Laci’s early goal for Albania exploited Croatia’s lack of cohesion at the back.

This vulnerability was further exposed as Kristjan Asllani and Rey Manaj missed opportunities to extend Albania’s lead.

Even Croatia’s midfield, once formidable, now seems susceptible, raising concerns about their ability to progress in the tournament. The experienced core, including stars like Luka Modric, seemed to struggle with the pace and intensity of their younger opponents.

  1. Albania’s Tactical Tenacity

Head coach Sylvinho’s tactical approach deserves commendation.

Unlike their passive stance after an early lead against Italy, Albania maintained their offensive pressure against Croatia. They created several clear-cut chances, demonstrating tactical flexibility and the ability to adapt based on previous experiences.

This persistence paid off, as evidenced by Gjasula’s late equaliser. Albania’s spirited performance suggests they won’t be pushovers against tournament favourites Spain in their next match.

  1. Croatia’s Second-Half Surge

Despite their defensive issues, Croatia’s second-half performance showed they still possess the quality to compete at the highest level.

Andrej Kramaric’s equaliser was a moment of individual brilliance, and the subsequent own-goal by Gjasula was the result of sustained pressure.

Croatia’s attack, orchestrated by Modric and company, displayed the creativity and urgency that has seen them reach the latter stages of several other tournaments. However, this match revealed that maintaining such intensity throughout 90 minutes is crucial for their success.

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  1. Implications for Group B

The draw leaves Croatia at the bottom of Group B with a significant challenge ahead.

With a daunting match against Italy looming, Croatia must find form quickly to avoid an early exit. Their negative goal difference adds to the urgency.

Conversely, Albania’s draw places them in third, behind Italy and Spain. Their spirited performances have captured the imagination of fans and sent a clear message to their next opponents, Spain.

Albania’s dream of advancing to the knockout stages remains alive, contingent on maintaining their resilience and tactical discipline.

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