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Euro 2024: Albania’s stoppage time comeback upsets Croatia’s knockout hopes

Euro 2024: Albania’s stoppage time comeback upsets Croatia’s knockout hopes

Photo: AFP

Hamburg, Germany: In a heated 2-2 tie with Croatia on Wednesday, Klaus Gjasula, a substitute for Albania, had the unique experience of scoring for both sides. This could provide a challenge for both countries should they make it through the Euro 2024 group stage.

The Croatian players were especially unhappy with the outcome in Hamburg because they had lost their opening Group B encounter 3-0 to Spain, and Gjasula's stoppage-time goal had deprived them of a much-needed victory.

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

Croatia attempted to set the early pace in the first-ever competitive meeting between the two Balkan sides, but Qazim Laci of Albania scored first, heading in a cross from the right flank in the eleventh minute, Associated Press reported.

In the 74th minute, Andrej Kramaric equalised, and two minutes later, Gjasula's own goal made it 2-1 for Croatia.

At that moment, Croatia appeared to be in control, but a late charge by Albania turned the tide once more, and in the 95th minute, Gjasula made amends by scoring a low shot.

Both Croatia and Albania are in a risky position in the group after an exciting end to the match. Albania's opening game ended in a 2-1 loss to reigning champion Italy.

After the game, the third-place Albanians—ahead of Croatia on goal difference—celebrated the most, while Luka Modric and his colleagues, who were semifinalists in the 2022 World Cup, were disappointed as they applauded the Croatian supporters.

“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.”

There was a lively mood at Hamburg's Volksparkstadion thanks to the equal distribution of spectators wearing Croatian checkered shirts and red-clad Albanian supporters.

Fans in the Croatian area continuously lit flares disregarding announcements over the loudspeakers that doing so would result in disciplinary action.

Croatia had little luck in the first half and could have been worse behind, but goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic stopped headers from Rey Manaj and Kristjan Asllani to hold the score at 1-0 at halftime.

After the interval, the Croatians came out with greater intensity and in just two minutes, they turned the game.

Kramaric's attempt to equalise went just inside the post. Gjasula was unlucky just a few minutes later when Albania attempted to clear the ball from the penalty area, only for it to bounce off him and into the net for the fourth own goal of the tournament.

The performance of his team pleased Albanian coach Sylvinho. Albania was viewed as unlikely to make it out of the group and is only competing in its second European Championship.

“It was amazing. I will remember this game all my life,” he said.

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TAGS:Euro 2024
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