Euro 2024

June 25, 2024

Modric bemoans ‘cruel’ late draw with Italy at Euros

Modric bemoans ‘cruel’ late draw with Italy at Euros

Croatia’s midfielder #10 Luka Modric (C) speaks with Dutch referee Danny Makkelie (2R) at the end of the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Croatia and Italy at the Leipzig Stadium in Leipzig on June 24, 2024. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Luka Modric said Italy’s last-gasp equaliser was a “cruel” way for Croatia to be pushed to the brink of elimination from Euro 2024 on Monday.

The 38-year-old became the oldest goalscorer in European Championship history when he prodded home in the 55th minute to put Croatia on track to reach the knockout phase for a fifth straight major tournament.

But Mattia Zaccagni’s curling strike in the eighth and final minute of added time snatched Italy a 1-1 draw which put the holders into the last 16.

“We kept battling right until the end but unfortunately football was merciless with us tonight,” said Modric.

“It was cruel… but that’s part and parcel of football.”

Croatia finished third in Group B behind runners-up Italy and Spain.

They will be knocked out of the tournament on Tuesday if England do not beat Slovenia 3-0 or by four goals, or if Denmark fail to defeat Serbia.

The 2022 World Cup semi-finalists were the better side for long periods against Italy in Leipzig, missing chances to score a second goal late on.

“It’s hard when you lose like this to find the words to describe how you feel,” added Modric, whose goal came less than 60 seconds after he had a penalty saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

“Perhaps it’s unfair because we all really fought for Croatia right from the first whistle until the last. We should be proud of the way we represented our country tonight.”

Modric is playing in his fifth Euros and has also appeared at four World Cups.

But he said he would not be retiring from football yet, as he continues to perform at the highest level after also winning his sixth Champions League title with Real Madrid earlier this month.

“I’d like to keep playing forever but there will probably be a time I’ll have to hang up my boots,” Modric said.

“I’ll keep playing on, I don’t know for how much longer.”

His first European Championship ended with an agonising quarter-final exit at the hands of Turkey in 2008, when Croatia took the lead in the 119th minute in extra time, before conceding an equaliser and then losing on penalties.

Modric admitted Monday’s heartbreak ranked alongside that loss 16 years ago.

“It’s hard to actually outdo the Turkey game from 2008 but this game probably runs it pretty close. It’s certainly a sad day for us and the Croatian national team.”

Modric was substituted in the 80th minute, left to watch from the sidelines as Zaccagni likely sent his team crashing out in agonising fashion.

“I didn’t want to waste him for more minutes, we needed to freshen up and get some guys on the pitch who could help,” said coach Zlatko Dalic.

“I wanted in the last 10-15 minutes to bring on someone who was a bit fresher because Luka had given everything.”