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Six lessons from Croatia 1-1 Italy

Published: Saturday 13 June 2015, 8.35CET's man in Croatia, Elvir Islamović, looks at six key moments from Friday's draw with Italy and finds two veterans in the visitors' team are still going strong.
by Elvir Islamović
from Stadion Poljud
Six lessons from Croatia 1-1 Italy
Croatia celebrate Mario Mandžukić's opening goal ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Saturday 13 June 2015, 8.35CET

Six lessons from Croatia 1-1 Italy's man in Croatia, Elvir Islamović, looks at six key moments from Friday's draw with Italy and finds two veterans in the visitors' team are still going strong.

1. Buffon sets new landmark
The first player to make 50 UEFA European Championship appearances, the Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon – a forlorn figure in Berlin six days earlier – marked the occasion by easily saving Mario Mandžukić's early penalty. Substituted in the second half because of injury, but had already done enough to help Antonio Conte's side to a potentially valuable point. The 37-year-old goalkeeper was a real star in Split; a selfie with the Juve man was much sought-after by supporters all week.

2. Mario Mandžukić's eventful evening
The match did not start well for the striker with that early penalty miss, but he atoned for that error four minutes later by rounding off a swift counterattack to give the home team the lead. Things then took a turn for the worse again; Mandžukić's handball in the area presented Italy with the penalty from which they scored their 36th-minute equaliser. "I wanted to do my best in every situation," said the Club Atlético de Madrid forward. "This was a crazy day for me, but it happens."

3. Rakitić on a roll
Ivan Rakitić's best season ended decently enough in Split: Croatia did not lose and Rakitić came home having won the UEFA Champions League, scoring in the final against Juventus. He was signing autographs in Split for days before the match; everybody wanted a photo with him. Rakitić faced Andrea Pirlo for the second time in a week, but this time both men were satisfied after the final whistle.

Rakitić happy with Croatia draw

4. Croatia's unbeaten run
The fantastic streak of consecutive matches without a loss against Italy is stretched to eight. It is now becoming a traditional scenario as the teams' last three matches have all ended 1-1, one in the group stage of UEFA EURO 2012 and two in this qualifying campaign, after November's stalemate in Milan. Croatia now have three victories and five draws against the Azzurri.

5. A bonus from Norway  
The result in Norway, where the hosts were unable to find a way through an obdurate Azerbaijan, is good news for both Croatia and Italy, the leading two teams in Group H with 14 and 12 points respectively. Azerbaijan are now coached by former Croatia midfielder Robert Prosinečki, who has given his homeland a helping hand, but Croatia cannot expect any favours when they face his side in Baku for their next fixture.

Pirlo satisfied with Italy point

6. Peerless Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo showed once again his knowledge and judgement with the ball is beyond compare. Croatia coach Niko Kovač admitted after the match that Pirlo had given him some headaches: aged 36, the midfielder was everywhere, commanding, helping, delivering the free-kick that led to Italy's penalty and coming close to scoring. Croatia's FC Internazionale Milano midfielder Mateo Kovačić summed up the general feeling: "It was very difficult to go after Pirlo," he said.

Last updated: 14/06/15 0.04CET