Euro 2024: Italy Beats Albania 2-1, Spain Wins Opener Against Croatia

Both Italy and Spain started off their Euro 2024 campaigns with a victory, pushing themselves into the top 2 positions in Group B. 

Defending champions, Italy, needed to battle for a hard earned win after Albania scored the fastest goal in a European Championship match. They were eventually able to overcome their opponents and eke out a win 2-1. Spain on the other hand, made a statement in their 3-0 win over Croatia, as they look to take home a fourth European Championship.

UEFA and UEFA Euro 2024 flags flying in the wind
Valerio Rosati / Alamy Stock Photo

Italy Overcome Early Hiccup To Beat Albania 2-1

Nedim Bajrami made Euro Cup history after just 23 seconds when he struck a beautiful ball into the top right corner to put Albania up 1-0 in Dortmund. 

The lead didn’t last long however, as first Alessandro Bastona headed in an inswinging pass from Lorenzo Pellegrini to level the match in the 11th minute. Then Nicolo Barella drove in a ball from about 20 yards out to put Italy in the lead just 5 minutes later.

Italy dominated time of possession in the first half and took 13 shots to just the 4 from Albania. Other than the big misstep in the first minute, Italy seemed like they were in complete control of the match. 

Despite not having much luck turning their advantage into goals, the Italians continued their domination into the second half. Albania couldn’t seem to get much going on the offensive end and were continuously held in the middle of the field.

Taking the early lead seemed to backfire, as the Albanians just sat back most of the game and reacted to what the Italians gave them. Italy could have had a few more goals but the Albanian goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha stopped the deficit from getting out of hand. He made a leaping save which pushed out a Davide Frattesi shot against the post and later denied Gianluca Scamacca from close range.

Their best chance Albania had for an equalizer was when Gianluigi Donnarumma saved a late Rey Manaj effort. Other than that, it was pretty clear sailing for Italy as they opened up their cup defense with a solid win.

Next up for Italy will be a big match on Thursday with Group leaders Spain. The winner of the match will most likely qualify for the next round and end up topping the Group.

Spain Dominate Croatia, 3-0

A pre-tournament favourites, Spain, pulled off a seemingly effortless 3-0 victory over Croatia at Olympiastadion Berlin to open up their tournament. Spain had three first half goals by Alvaro Morata, Fabian Ruiz and Dani Carvajal which essentially settled the match in the first half. Croatia didn’t have much in terms of an answer, even though they won time of possession and had 15 shots on net.

Barcelona winger Lamine Yamal became the youngest player in men’s Euros Cup history when he started the game at the age of 16 years and 338 days. It was the oldest player in the team however that gave them their first goal, when Morata slotted one past Dominik Livakovic for his 36th goal for his country.

It only took Spain three minutes to extend their lead after that, as Ruiz found the back of the net from the edge of the box. His shot deflected slightly off Josip Sutalo on its way past the keeper.

The last of Spain’s goals came just before the halftime break, when Yamal crossed a ball to Carvajal to popped one into the top corner. 

Up 3-0, Spain seemed to wrap up the game in the middle of the field in the second half, keeping Croatia out of scoring positions. The one big opportunity they did get was squandered, as Bruno Petkovic saw his late penalty saved by Simon.  

As semi-finalists from 2 years ago, Croatia will be disappointed with their effort but will try to kickstart their campaign when they face Albania in Hamburg on Thursday. If they are to qualify for the next round they will need to pull off wins in their next two matches and hope for losses by Italy.