Playing with 10 men from the 77th minute on the Swiss team held off the favored side from Spain through two periods of extra time, over 47 minutes of cumulative playing time, but succumbed to a messy penalty shootout despite Yann Sommer’s heroic saves.
The Swiss had to play without the suspended Granit Xhaka and at the 8th minute, a Jordi Alba shot ricocheted off Denis Zakaria, flat-footing Sommer, accounting for the Spanish lead and tournament’s tenth own goal. Then, at the 23rd minute, Breel Embolo pulled a hamstring and had to be replaced.
A cynical partisan fan might have said the favored Spaniards were being given an unfair series of advantages—the Swiss had eliminated the French in a titanic clash, were then playing without their talismanic leader, and then had their best purely offensive player injured out of the match—but even a neutral fan would have to note little was favoring the Swiss in this match.
As a consequence, Spain thoroughly dominated a physically and technically depleted Swiss side, enjoying 73% of possession and 28 shots on goal to the Swiss team’s eight. The Spaniards completed 970 passes to the Swiss team’s 369. Nevertheless, the Swiss persevered and a series of lucky bounces allowed Xherdan Shaqiri to equalize at the 68th minute.
But it was the 77th-minute red card for Remo Freuler that was the last straw and determined the outcome of this match. The Swiss then needed to use their entire bench to make it through extra time and when penalties were taken it was not the likes of the substituted Steve Zuber, Shaqiri, Harish Severovic, or Xhaka, stepping up to the penalty spot.
In the end, the team who hit all five of their penalties against France missed three of their four taken shots while Spain scored three of their five.
Luis Enrique, who had gambled on youth in Euro 2020 with his squad choices still managed to pick Alvaro Morata, Sergio Busquets, Koke, Alba, and Cesar Azpilicueta in his starting line up and then substituted in Gerard Moreno and Thiago Alcantara for quite an experienced team on the pitch.
In the end the younger legs did win out but mostly abetted by their elders. Spain was not convincing previously and is still not now and their match against the Italy-Belgium winner will not count them as favorites.
Photo: Luis Enrique, 187126356 © Fabio Diena | Dreamstime.com
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