Mandzukic equaliser punishes Italians

Italy 1 Croatia 1

Mario Mandzukic scored his third goal in two Euro 2012 games to leave Croatia and Italy's quarter-final hopes on a knife-edge.

Croatia went into the Group C encounter knowing a win over Italy would guarantee them a last-eight place, but they were decidedly second best in the opening 45 minutes at Poznan's Municipal Stadium.

Italy deservedly led at the half-time interval courtesy of Andrea Pirlo's stunning free-kick, but were never the same attacking force in the second period, allowing Mandzukic to equalise in the 72nd minute.

With four points from two matches, Croatia now face a challenging final clash with reigning world and European champions Spain.

As for Italy, who have now drawn both of their matches, they know they will have to beat the Republic of Ireland on Monday to be in with a chance of a quarter-final spot.

Although Italy coach Cesare Prandelli remains unbeaten in competitive internationals with eight wins and four draws, he will likely feel this was a game that should have been won in the first half.

Italy signalled their intent inside three minutes, via Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli in particular.

Receiving Emanuele Giaccherini's left-wing ball inside the area and with his back to goal, Balotelli made one touch and a sharp turn before firing a 12-yard left-foot shot narrowly wide.

It was the start of a predominantly one-sided half, with Claudio Marchisio shaving the crossbar with a rasping 20-yard drive just eight minutes later.

A further opportunity for Balotelli, with a snap shot straight at goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, and an Antonio Cassano flick through the six-yard box sandwiched Croatia's one significant chance.

That came in the 20th minute when Darijo Srna played a piercing low ball from the right into the near post.

All that was required was the merest of touches from Nikica Jelavic that would potentially have been enough to beat Gianluigi Buffon, but instead the veteran was allowed to collect.

Italy, though, retained their stranglehold on the game and should have taken the lead eight minutes from the break, only for Marchisio to twice be denied by Pletikosa.

After a delightful touch to leave Srna for dead inside the area following a through ball from Cassano, Marchisio's initial left-foot shot was superbly saved by Pletikosa, who then blocked the follow-up at point-blank range.

But with the danger still present, Ivan Ratikic fouled Balotelli on the edge of the area, allowing Pirlo to whip a 21-yard right-foot free-kick over the wall and inside Pletikosa's right-hand post.

It left Slaven Bilic's side going into the break knowing they had to up the tempo and chase the game in the second half, which they at least started with greater urgency.

But after Luka Modric first fired a 20-yard shot a yard over the bar the encounter turned scrappy, dominated by niggly fouls and challenges until Balotelli came within inches with a fierce drive on the hour.

Then finally, in the 72nd minute, Croatia made their presence felt in the right way as their two-goal hero from the 3-1 win over the Republic of Ireland struck again.

Ivan Strinic's ball from deep on the left wing was missed by Giorgio Chiellini, allowing Mandzukic to control and beat the advancing Buffon in off the right-hand post from six yards.

Croatia finished the game the stronger as they went in search of the winner that would have sealed their last-eight place, but it was not to be, leaving both sides facing a dramatic final group game.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor