Spain Sneak into Semi Finals After Penalty Thriller with Switzerland

Only a few years ago, Spain would have greatly fancied their chances in a match like this. Tonight, they were wise enough to be humble. Switzerland, after all, had just knocked out World Champions France, and Spain had suffered for their victory against Croatia.

The Swiss’ enthusiastic press deserves to be mentioned, albeit it wasn’t something they could rely on for very long. In only the 7th minute, Jordi Alba fired a ball arriving in him courtesy of a corner, and Denis Zakaria unluckily changed the ball’s path towards his own net. It was a game of catch-up from then onwards in which tired legs showed.

Neither Spain nor Switzerland coasted in the Round of 16. Still, both scored plenty of goals. And, both managed to overcome strong opponents. With this in mind, the two managers opted not to massively alter their approach for this game.

Switzerland began the match in a 4-2-3-1 formation where Remo Freuler and Denis Zakaria were tasked with keeping the inventive Spanish midfielders in check. Haris Seferovic, who enjoyed a dream game last time around, was deployed upfront. Granit Xhaka did not start the game being suspended and powerful striker Breel Embolo was forced off the field in the 20th minute with an injury.

Meanwhile, Luis Enrique opted to plow on with his 4-3-3 system in which the squad choices have crystalized following a number of near-disasters. Sergio Busquets and Koke were proved with the creative midfielder roles. Meanwhile, Pedri was deployed as a midfielder, while Ferran Torres, Alvaro Morata, and Pablo Sarabia formed the team’s attacking trident.

As easily predicted, Luis Enrique’s team wasted no time in taking hold of possession. In spite of this, the team’s attacking plays were conservative rather than relentless.

Much of this could have been due to the team going one goal in front early on in the game. Koke’s cross arrived at the feet of Jordi Alba’s whose shot outside of the box ricocheted off Denis Zakaria and into goalkeeper Yann Sommer’s net.

Both teams enjoyed few and far between chances throughout the rest of the match with Spain seemingly happy and comfortable maintaining their narrow lead.

Luis Enrique’s policies were, however, forced into a sudden change when the 68th minute Swiss playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri scored the equalizer. The goal came as a result of an embarrassing defensive blunder where Aymeric Laporte shot the ball into his teammate Pau Torres.

An extra layer of complication was added in the 77th minute. Defensive midfielder Remo Feuler launched himself into an attack on Gerard Moreno and was instantly red-carded.

With the regular 90 minutes ending in a draw, there was nothing to do for the Spanish but to attack desperately, looking to avoid the unpredictability of the penalty shootout.

Jordi Alba, Mikel Oyarzabal, and Gerard Moreno had their chances, but, throughout, Yann Sommer kept his proverbial cool. The match began resembling Spain’s impossible conquest of Sweden in the first match of their Euro 2020 campaign.

The Swiss survived the attacking cavalcade and, one more, they moved on to penalties. On the first shot of the night, Sergio Busquests hit the post. Despite this, Switzerland’s players were unable to take advantage as they proceeded to miss three of their four penalty shots. Oyarzabal stepped up to take the decisive spot-kick and… scored.

Spain made it through once again but the sin of their teeth. It’s a joy that needs to be a tempered one given the numerous times Luis Enrique’s team was nearly eliminated.

Switzerland performed way above expectations in their last three games. They deserve a high degree of praise and the results today go to prove that Switzerland’s Golden Generation has not been a mere hype.



July 2, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Quarter Finals
SWITZERLAND-SPAIN 1-1 after extra times, 1-3 on penalties

SCORERS: 8′ Jordi Alba (Sp); 68′ Shaqiri (Sw)

PENALTY SEQUENCE: Busquets (Sp) post, Gavranovic (Sw) goal, Dani Olmo (Sp) goal, Schar (Sw) saved, Pedri (Sp) saved, Akanji (Sw) saved, G. Moreno (Sp) goal, Vargas (Sw) out 

SWITZERLAND (3-4-2-1): Sommer; Elvedi, Akanji, Rodriguez; Widmer (100′ Mbabu), Freuler, Zakaria (100′ Schar), Zuber (92’ Fassnacht); Shaqiri (81′ Sow), Embolo (23′ Vargas); Seferovic (81′ Gavranovic) (Mvogo, Kobel, Benito, Fernandes, Comert, Lotomba) Coach: Petkovic
SPAIN (4-3-3): Unai Simon; Azpilicueta, Pau Torres (113′ Thiago Alcantara), Laporte, Jordi Alba; Koke (91’ M. Llorente), Busquets, Pedri (119′ Rodri); Ferran Torres (91′ Oyarzabal), Morata (54′ G. Moreno), Sarabia (46′ Dani Olmo) (De Gea, Sanchez, D. Llorente, Garcia, Gaya, Traoré) Coach: Luis Enrique

REFEREE: Oliver (England)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Widmer (Sw), Laporte (Sp); Red Card: Freuler (Sw)