Euro 2024 talking points: Spain make changes but remain perfect

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Euro 2024 talking points: Spain make changes but remain perfect

Spain's players celebrate at the end of the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Albania and Spain
Spain's players celebrate at the end of the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match between Albania and SpainAFP
As Group B came to a dramatic close on Monday night, we bring you the biggest talking points after Spain finished with a 100 per cent record and Italy left it late to qualify into last 16, but questions remain over the defending champions.

No mistakes from Spain

A perfect record in any major tournament during the group stage is not to be sniffed at and Spain can have very little complaints after their 1-0 win over Albania.

Luis de la Fuente made 10 changes to his side that beat Italy 1-0 last week, and one of those players, Ferran Torres, showed quality with his finish to settle the contest.

Ferran Torres' goal sequence
Ferran Torres' goal sequenceFlashscore

A bigger scoreline would have been more comfort to their coach, but they are yet to concede in the competition, and are showing what champions are made of. In the build-up to the game De La Fuente pleaded with the Spanish media to not compare his side to the successful 2008 team that went all the way in Switzerland and Austria. That plea is more likely to fall on deaf ears now as expectations sore.

Toothless Albania

Albania came into the game with Spain knowing a win was the only way they would have a chance of qualifying from the last 16. In a group with such heavyweights, it was always going to be a tough task and they showed heart throughout the campaign.

That would have been of little comfort after the 1-0 loss that sent them packing. Alongside that, they rarely challenged David Raya in the Spain goal - only Kristjan Asllani looked dangerous, and that was from distance. A vocal point up front was the missing link for them on Monday night, but there is a base behind that spot to build on going forward.

Zaccagni saves Italian blushes 

Italy were seconds away from a humbling exit at EURO 2024 after a truly forgettable tournament.

They were hoping for a miracle to save them after yet another under-par performance against Croatia tonight. 

Zaccagni goal sequence
Zaccagni goal sequenceStatsPerform, AFP

In the final minute of stoppage time, they were 1-0 down and on the brink of exit. And then out of nowhere, when all hope seemed to be lost, up stepped Mattia Zaccagni. It was a stunning equaliser which curled into the top corner to the agony of Luka Modric and Croatia.

Italy might not deserve it and it is hard to see them going far at Euro 2024 but their blushes have been saved for now. 

Heartbreak for Modric

As for Croatia, they did everything right this evening and could do little to stop a moment of individual magic.

Talking of magic - that will most likely be Modric's final game at a major tournament. What a cruel and sad way to go out for one of football's true legends.

Luka Modric's heat map against Italy
Luka Modric's heat map against ItalyOpta by StatsPerform, AFP

It mathematically might not be the end for Croatia at EURO 2024 but it would require Czech Republic, Georgia both losing and England hitting three past Slovenia whilst Denmark getting the better of Serbia. The England result feels the least likely there - they haven't looked like a team about to beat Slovenia 3-0. 

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