Cape Breton Post
Swiss, Spanish to meet after Euro 2020 thrillers
BUCHAREST/COPENHAGEN — Switzerland’s Yann Sommer saved France striker Kylian Mbappe’s penalty to secure a 5-4 shootout win over the world champions following a thrilling 3-3 draw after extra time on Monday to reach the Euro 2020 quarterfinals where they will meet Spain.
On a memorable evening for Swiss football, the socalled Nati repeatedly beat the odds, coming from 3-1 down with two goals in the final five minutes to force extra time and eventually penalties.
It was Switzerland’s first knockout stage victory at a tournament since 1938 and the first time they have made the last eight since the 1954 World Cup which they hosted. They will next face Spain, who outduelled Croatia 5-3 on Monday, on Friday in St Petersburg.
“Honestly I am still in shock,” said Sommer, who became the most capped Swiss keeper with 65 international appearances.
“We showed courage, heart, we left everything out there. When you come back from two goals down against the world champions it is just unbelievable, and then to win on penalties, I could not be prouder of the way we did it.”
The result means France coach Didier Deschamps will miss out on becoming the first man to win World Cup and Euro titles both as a player and a coach.
“It is my responsibility and I told the players that I assume it,” Deschamps, who won the 2018 World Cup with France, said of the shock loss.
“When France win merit goes always to the players. When things are less good then it is my responsibility. But that’s the way sport is. You have to accept it even if it hurts.”
SPAIN 5, CROATIA 3
In Copenhagen, Spain striker Alvaro Morata answered vicious criticism by helping fire his side to a 5-3 win over Croatia after extra time on Monday to reach the quarterfinalsin a breathless match laced with storylines.
In the best game of the tournament so far, Spain fell behind in the first half to a Pedri own goal from near the halfway line after keeper Unai Simon let a backpass bobble past him.
But the three-times European champions recovered their poise and looked en route to a comfortable victory with goals from Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres.
Showing the spirit that took them to the last World Cup final, Croatia staged an astonishing comeback with goals from Mislav Orsic in the 85th minute and a Mario Pasalic header in added time to force the extra period.
Luis Enrique’s side showed tremendous character though and prevailed with Morata’s superb strike in the 100th minute and a goal from Mikel Oyarzabal in the 103rd.
Spain celebrated a first knockout win in a major tournament since winning Euro 2012 to set up the quarter-final against Switzerland.
“It was an epic game,” said Luis Enrique.
“I’ve experienced many intense games in my career but this was one of the best. An infinite number of things happened to us but we knew how to turn things around. Everyone saw our true team spirit today.”
Goal scorer Azpilicueta added: “We suffered so much, it has been such a long time since we have won a knockout match and we managed to finally do it against the World Cup runners up.”
Morata has been the centre of attention of Spain’s campaign amid inconsistent performances and criticism from his own supporters, which took an ugly turn during last week’s 5-0 win over Slovakia.
His wife and children were threatened by supporters in Seville and he complained of facing death threats before the game, prompting coach Luis Enrique to urge police action.
The striker has long struggled for consistency in front of goal in a career which has taken him to Real Madrid, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Juventus, while he has been accused by former coaches and team mates of having a fragile disposition.
But he showed steel Monday when Spain’s confidence was on the floor, controlling a Dani Olmo cross with one foot before blasting into the roof of the net to put Spain back in front.
Substitute Oyarzabal struck moments later from another Olmo cross to increase Spain’s lead and this time Croatia had no response.
The result made them the first side in a Euros to score five or more goals in consecutive matches, with Morata joining Fernando Torres as his nation’s joint highest scorer in the competition on five goals.
Pedri earned an unwanted record: his own goal from 49 yards was the longest own goal in a Euros and the tournament’s first ever from outside the box.