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Albania and Croatia Draw 2-2 in Thrilling Euro 2024 Group Stage Match

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Hamburg, Germany — In a dramatic 2-2 draw, Albania substitute Klaus Gjasula experienced the rare distinction of scoring for both teams in an intense match against Croatia, complicating both teams’ prospects of advancing past the Euro 2024 group stage.

Croatia left Hamburg particularly disappointed after Gjasula’s stoppage-time goal deprived them of a crucial victory following their 3-0 defeat to Spain in their opening Group B match. The late goal by Gjasula, coming in the 95th minute, changed the match’s outcome and left Croatian players and fans alike in dismay.

“My first minutes on the pitch were very, very difficult for me not only for the own goal but also other situations,” Gjasula reflected. “Then God wanted and gave me the opportunity to score. A very beautiful, historic day for me.”

In the first-ever competitive match between these Balkan nations, Albania struck first with Qazim Laci heading in a cross from the right flank in the 11th minute. Croatia struggled to find their rhythm in the first half and faced a 1-0 deficit at halftime, thanks to key saves by their goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

The second half saw Croatia come out with renewed energy. Andrej Kramaric equalized in the 74th minute with a precise shot inside the post. Just two minutes later, Gjasula inadvertently gave Croatia the lead with an own goal during a chaotic clearance attempt by Albania.

Croatia appeared to be on the path to victory until Gjasula redeemed himself by scoring a low shot in stoppage time, securing a 2-2 draw and dramatically altering the group dynamics. The match’s thrilling conclusion left both teams in precarious positions, with Albania slightly ahead of Croatia on goal difference.

The draw was particularly celebrated by Albania, who had lost 2-1 to defending champions Italy in their first match. Third-place Albania, playing only their second European Championship, were elated with the result, while Croatia’s Luka Modric and his teammates, who reached the semifinals at the 2022 World Cup, were visibly disappointed as they applauded their fans.

“We would have been a lot happier if we hadn’t conceded the last goal. The situation would have been totally different,” Kramaric said. “We turned the match, and we should have won. But that’s football.”

The Volksparkstadion in Hamburg was a vibrant sea of red Albanian supporters and Croatian fans in checkered shirts, providing a loud and energetic atmosphere. Despite repeated warnings, Croatian fans set off flares, leading to potential disciplinary actions.

Albania coach Sylvinho expressed pride in his team’s performance. “It was amazing. I will remember this game all my life,” he said. Albania’s spirited play in only their second European Championship has been a highlight, giving hope to their chances of advancing.

As the group stage progresses, both Albania and Croatia face tough challenges ahead. Their thrilling draw in Hamburg is a testament to the unpredictability and excitement of Euro 2024, leaving fans eagerly anticipating the next matches.

Source: AP