In the second Euro 2020 Round of 16 titanic match of the evening, Switzerland came back from 1-3 down to draw even at the end of 90+ minutes at Arena Nationala in Bucharest, Romania with 22,000+ spectators present. Then the Swiss, led by a brace from Haris Seferovic, won a penalty shootout when the first nine players scored their penalties and Kylian Mbappe had his saved by Yann Sommer.
The Swiss now progress to meet Spain in the quarterfinals.
In a very engrossing match, the Swiss, ironically, provided France with their biggest test of the tournament, and in so doing surprised the World Cup champions out of the tournament.
The scoring began surprisingly at the 15th minute with a magnificent Haris Seferovic header off a perfect Steven Zuber cross. But the game turned well after that goal, at the 55th minute when Switzerland were awarded a penalty and Ricardo Rodriguez’s shot was saved by Hugo Lloris.
The save awakened the French giants who had yet to reach second gear and then they went from second to fifth gear in an instant and played 18 minutes of sublime soccer with Karim Benzema scoring at the 57th and 59th and Paul Pogba scoring one of the goals of the tournament at the 75th.
But that seemed all France could muster as from that moment on it was the Swiss who got charged up. Six minutes later Seferovic put in his second, headed goal and nine minutes later Mario Gavranovic drew the sides even at the 90th.
Extra time saw many substitutes come in, protagonists go out (brace scorers Benzema and Seferovic), and both sides have close calls and chances go amiss, but then they reached the 120th minute and the penalty shootout that evens out all football games, reducing gaps in talent and effort to a simple lottery. Switzerland 3-3 France, then the Swiss won 5-4 on penalties.
Spain edge out Croatia a.e.t.
It mattered not if you watched the France-Switzerland match first or the Croatia-Spain match, in either case, you would have thought it was deja vu all over again. This Euro 2020 Round of 16 game was played at Copenhagen, Denmark’s Parken Stadium, with 22,000+ spectators, and began with a 20th minute thirty-five yard Pedri back pass to Unai Simon who mishandled it and could only watch it roll ten yards into the goal.
With the tables turned, the Spaniards turned up the style and scored at the 38th, 57th, and 76th, (sound familiar). Then the Croatians took umbrage and stormed back scoring at the 85th and 90+2 minutes. With the score tied at 3-3, extra time ensured we would be in for a continued raucous ride. But the mostly one-sided officiating began to take its toll and each time Croatia had an opportunity for a change of possession and a counterattack they would be called for a foul and each time Spain had a chance for an extended possession interrupted the Croats would again be the ones called for a foul on plays that were at best 50-50 and at worst favorable to the Croatians.
With the field tilted against them, the Croats had a hard time mustering consistent opportunities and they missed the few they were able to create. But at the 100th minute, a defensive lapse left Alvaro Morata one on one at the left side of the box with a Croatian striker who had come in as a substitute defender. Morata deftly trapped with his right, avoiding the striker and positioning himself for what was a blast with his left foot and a 4-3 Spanish lead. Finally, Morata had the monkey off his two shoulders and his back and both hips! Three minutes later the same striker found himself trying to mark Mikel Oyarzabal one on one and the Spaniard got past him to score at the 103rd and put the match to rest 5-3 to Spain.
At the 105th, 107th, and 110th calls that should have gone Croatia’s way went to Spain and Luka Modric who had been arguing with the ref all match long looked to the bench. Coach Zlatko Dalic coach nodded at Modric, and at the 114th the best Croatian player in their history was substituted, in effect conceding the result.
Some favorites progressing with officiating assists
Entering week three, Euro 2020 has reached the more lucrative stages of its month-long show and we are beginning to see FIFA’s hands on the officiating levers of game results behind the scenes. Ensuring that favorites progress, as always, comes across as being more important than Fair Play. And if we are to go by the refereeing in the most competitive matches of late Portugal-Belgium, Wales-Denmark, and Spain-Croatia, it became clear that the powers that be preferred Belgium, Denmark, and Spain progress.
Witness now Wales had nearly double the fouls called on sentimental tournament favorites Denmark, or the number of calls that went Belgium’s way when Portugal was dangerously close to tying the match, or the consistent Sergio Busquets counter-attack-stopping fouls on Croatia that went uncalled. Then, watch the video of the number of Paul Pogba and Presnel Kimpembe fouls that went uncalled in just the first half and ask yourself if just a couple might have had an effect on France’s chances. Had fortune not smiled on the Swiss would we not be hearing about the officiating right about now?
Paul Pogba watch
We had initiated a Pogba watch because of his stiff-arming penchant throughout the group stage of the competition, but that unnecessary illegal act was mostly cleaned up as the tourney progressed, and though Pogba did foul often and got away with it, he did not use his stiff-arm technique much in the match with Switzerland.
What needs mentioning, though, is that with the exception of single-game performances such as Seferovic’s, and the tournament-long consistent quality of Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric, and in a few passages, Gareth Bale, Pogba has been in a class by himself in his four matches with France. Today, his passing and midfield control, his goal, his penalty, and his overall field and team leadership were only surpassed by Modric’s and Ronaldo’s so far in this tournament.