Quarter-finals time. We are nearing the business end of the tournament with the first 2 quarter-finals taking place today. The underdog story of Switzerland took on the 2-time champions Spain in St. Petersburg, and the big game in the evening. The world number 1 side Belgium took on the Azzuri of Italy in Munich to decide the first semi-final at Wembley Stadium.
|UEFA Euro 2020|
Penalty shootout heartbreak for the Swiss
The Switzerland underdog story had to go onto penalties again, but their heroic run during EURO 2020 came to an end in St. Petersburg, as Spain book the first semi-final spot in EURO 2020 following a penalty shootout win over the Swiss.
Spain took the lead after 8 minutes when a corner was cleared out to Jordi Alba, whose strike took a big deflection off Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria. The deflection wrong-footed his Gladbach teammate Yann Sommer and the ball went into the back of the net for Spain to lead.
The lead lasted until the 68th minute when a mistake between the 2 center-backs for Spain, Pau Torres and Aymeric Laporte, gifted the ball to Remo Freuler who cut it back to Swiss captain Xherdan Shaqiri to equalize.
Switzerland went down to 10 men when the assister to the Shaqiri goal Remo Freuler was given a straight red card for a tackle on Gerard Moreno. English referee Michael Oliver had no hesitations and after a VAR check, the officials in Nyon confirmed the decision of red card for Freuler, and Switzerland had to play the rest of the game with 10 men.
Extra time beckoned, and Gerard Moreno had many a chance to kill the tie for Spain in the 30 minute period, but he squandered them all which meant the game remained stuck at 1-1 going into the dreaded penalty shootout.
Sergio Busquets took the first pen and saw his shot hit the post, and when Mario Gavranovic stepped up and scored his pen it was advantage Switzerland. RB Leipzig's Dani Olmo was next up for Spain and he smashed his penalty into the top corner to pull Spain level, then came a string of missed penalties. First, it was Newcastle defender Fabian Schär who saw his spot-kick saved by Unai Simon. It negated the advantage the Swiss had but they were given another chance to gain the advantage when Man City's Rodri saw his penalty saved by Sommer. But the Swiss failed again, Dortmund's Manuel Akanji took a poor penalty which was easy for Unai Simon to save, it remained 1-1. Gerard Moreno took the next kick and scored to give Spain the lead, and it was down to Augsburg's midfielder Ruben Vargas to make sure Spain's next penalty was not potentially the winning kick. Vargas ran up and fired his penalty over the bar, and Spain had the chance to go through.
It was down to Mikel Oyarzabal and he fired home to send Spain through to the semi-finals of EURO 2020. For Switzerland, it was heartbreak, especially for Ruben Vargas who was in tears after the final whistle was blown. A strong effort in these championships from the Swiss, and they can be proud of their achievements in this tournament. For Spain, it's a trip to Wembley against the winners of Belgium vs Italy.
Switzerland Starting XI: (3-4-1-2)
Akanji - Elvedi - Rodriguez
Widmer - Zakaria - Freuler - Zuber
Seferovic - Embolo
Spain Starting XI: (4-3-3)
Azpilicueta - Laporte - P. Torres - Alba
Koke - Busquets - Pedri
F. Torres - Morata - Sarabia
Belgium fall to Italian strength
The favorites for the EURO 2020 title have been dumped out of the competition at the quarter-final stage by Italy in a back and forth game. The 'BVBelgians' were in the starting XI and 2 of them played the full 90 minutes, but they weren't able to engineer a comeback as Italy ran out 2-1 winners in the Allianz Arena in Munich.
The Italians thought they took the lead when Leonardo Bonucci got the final touch on a Lorenzo Insigne free-kick, but a quick VAR check swiftly ruled the goal out for offside. But they did get the lead when a poor clearance from Alderweireld went to Verratti who played in Inter midfielder Nicolo Barella, who excellently fired past Courtois to give Italy the lead.
The goal from Barella was bettered in spectacular fashion when Lorenzo Insigne took on a shot from range and found the back of Courtois' net to double the Italian lead.
Belgium were given a way back into the game when Rennes winger Jeremy Doku ran at Giovanni Di Lorenzo and was fouled by the Italian defender in the box. VAR confirmed the penalty and Romelu Lukaku duly took up the offer to bring Belgium back in the game, slotting the penalty home right on the stroke of half time.
In the second half, Belgium piled on the pressure, but the Italians who are famed for their defensive style of play were incredibly solid at the back. The likes of Chiellini and Bonucci were celebrating every block like a goal, and celebrating every save from Gianluigi Donnarumma like it was a win. Italy's rearguard action did the job and secured a semi-final spot at Wembley against Spain.
Belgium Starting XI: (3-4-2-1)
Vermaelen - Alderweireld - Vertonghen
Meunier - Tielemans - Witsel - Hazard
De Bruyne - Doku
Italy Starting XI: (4-3-3)
Di Lorenzo - Chiellini - Bonucci - Spinazzola
Verratti - Barella - Jorginho
Chiesa - Immobile - Insigne