A thrilling penalty shootout saw Switzerland prevail with 5 goals to 4, and they stunned the French side to set up a much anticipated Quarter-final match with 3 time European Champions Spain.
Unbelievable. In one of the most exhilarating days of football history, underdogs Switzerland eliminated World Cup Champions France from the UEFA Euro 2020 in a beyond dramatic evening at the National Arena in Bucharest. A thrilling penalty shootout saw Switzerland prevail with 5 goals to 4, and they stunned the French side to set up a much anticipated Quarter-final match with 3 time European Champions Spain. Here are some highlights from the game:
Seferović sets the stage on fire
An early goal by striker Haris Seferović helped Switzerland start off on the right foot. A 15th minute delivery into the 6-yard-box by teammate Steven Zuber was converted by Seferović, who got onto the end of the floating ball directed towards him. Launching himself into the air, Switzerland’s striker guided a powerful header into the left corner, beating French Captain Hugo Lloris, and putting Switzerland ahead of the World Champions 15 minutes into this thrilling game.
Bow down Benzema
1-0 down and nearly 60 minutes into the game, France desperately needed an equalizer. And who better than Karim Benzema? In the span of 2 minutes, Benzema conjured not 1 but 2 goals for France, putting them in an exceedingly good position. The first one, 57 minutes into the game, was converted following a measured pass from Mbappe into Switzerland’s penalty box. Incredibly so, the ball was behind Benzema, and he tapped it forward with one foot, only to quickly tip it above Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer, and send it racing into the opposition’s net. Within minutes, Benzema blazed again, sending an open header into Switzerland’s goal at the far post in the 59th minute. Guiding home a lovely lob in by Antoinne Griezmann, Benzema doubled his goals at Euro 2020, and now proudly stands at 31 international goals, at par with Zinedine Zidane. It was heartbreak for the Switzerland players, who had been almost perfect moments ago, and were now standing at the brink of elimination in this Round of 16 cliff-hanger.
Please don’t dance Pogba
Sensational from France. In a complete turnaround, Paul Pobga put France 3-1 up in the 75th minute with a screaming goal from a massive distance. Benzema had tried for a similar shot earlier and had been denied, but Pogba failed to disappoint, scoring his first goal for France since the World Cup final. He whipped the ball so powerfully and perfectly that Yann Sommer had no chance at keeping it out. In an unreal goal curled into the top right corner, favourites, France, were nearly into the top eight at the Euro 2020. Pogba celebrated with a not-so-aesthetically pleasing dance, but his strike certainly made up for that comical series of steps. With 3 goals in 30 minutes, France had proven themselves yet again.
Swisst after Swisst (sorry, Twist)
The last 10 minutes saw more drama than any Euro Cup game had all season. 3-1 at 80 minutes; and suddenly 3-3 at 90. Seferović sent another header into France’s net in the 81st minute, culminating in a brilliant comeback by Switzerland. Expertly diminishing a neat cross in by substitute Kevin Mbabu from the right, Seferović read the situation perfectly, finding himself on a hat-trick for Switzerland. Within minutes, Switzerland were on the attack again, and Mario Gavranović poked the ball into the net past Lloris in the 84th. minute, spurring Swiss celebrations like never before. But did the equalizer stand? A quick VAR check confirmed that Gavranović was offside, and Swiss smiles immediately turned to frowns. With 5 minutes of regular time to go, the score was still 3-2 in France’s favour, and Switzerland had to react quickly. The miracle came in the 90th minute, as Gavranović equalized for Switzerland, this time safely. Denied by VAR minutes ago, Gavranović finished this one tidily, rocketing the ball into the left corner, miles away from Lloris’s fingertips. Somehow, Switzerland had found their way back into the game, and had made it 3-3 in Bucharest. Extra Time loomed, and Switzerland had proved their resilience against the World Champions in a gripping, dramatic game of the highest quality of football.
With no winner at the end of Extra Time, both sides progressed to an exciting penalty shootout, the first at Euro 2020. Switzerland converted all 5 of their penalties, and Kylian Mbappe stepped up for France’s 5th take. In order to stay in the European Championships, France had to score this penalty. In an extremely dramatic last penalty, Mbappe was stopped by Yann Sommer, who somehow kept the French striker’s delivery out of Switzerland’s net. Sommer dove to the left, trapping the ball with his hands in an extraordinary response to one of France’s most talented young players. In a vital miss at death, Mbappe had ended France’s reign, as Switzerland emerged victorious with a 5-4 finish late Tuesday evening.
A fixture that many may have tipped in France’s favour turned out to be one of the most thrilling and dramatic clashes of Euro 2020 thus far, even after an afternoon that saw Spain and Croatia throttling each other to the very end. Their Round of 16 loss will mean heartbreak for the French side and their most promising youngster Kylian Mbappe, but France must keep their chins up in preparation for their next international appearance. Switzerland, on the other hand, will now progress to an exciting Quarter-final clash with Spain, after stunningly humbling Mbappe and the World Champions, and rewriting history in a spectacular night of football.
(Ahaan is an intern with indianexpress.com)
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