Switzerland Stuns World Champions France On Penalties
By Chidi Nwoke.
Switzerland’s Yann Sommer saved France striker Kylian Mbappe’s penalty to secure a 5-4 shootout win over the world champions following a thrilling 3-3 draw after extra time at the National Arena in Bucharest to reach the Euro 2020 quarter-finals where they will meet Spain.
France had started with an unusual three-man defence but struggled to adapt to the unfamiliar formation. Switzerland embraced the high tempo with early chances and their positive approach to the contest was rewarded in the 15th minute.
Haris Seferovic produced a textbook centre-forward’s header to convert Steven Zuber’s cross which sparked wild celebrations from the Swiss fans.
The lively Kylian Mbappé and Adrien Rabiot fired their chances wide just before the break as France began to build up the pressure, but the Swiss defended well as the scoreline remained 1-0.
Didier Deschamps made a significant change in the second half, with Kingsley Coman sent on for Clement Lenglet as the world champions reverted to their more familiar back four. The change did not make them any less susceptible at the back as Benjamin Pavard fouled Zuber in the box and a penalty was awarded to the Swiss after a VAR check.
Ricardo Rodriguez stepped up to take the penalty and was denied by French goalkeeper Lloris. Two minutes later Karim Benzema had the ball in the net for France. Benzema produced a wonderful touch to tap Mbappe’s pass from underneath himself and poked it past Swiss goalkeeper Sommer from close range.
The world champions took the lead two minutes later through another fantastic flick. This time it was Mbappe’s clip to release Antoine Griezmann whose shot looped up for Benzema to nod in from a yard out.
A few minutes after Switzerland missed an opportunity to equalise, a moment of pure class looked to have settled the tie when Paul Pogba curled a sensational shot into the top corner, giving Sommer no chance in the 75th minute to make it 3-1 for France
Switzerland refused to roll over and staged their own sensational nine-minute turnaround. First Seferovic headed in Kevin Mbabu’s delicious cross to give the Swiss a glimmer of hope, making the scoreline 3-2.
Moments later, substitute Mario Gavranovic received a defence-spitting pass from Grant Xhaka, dribbled past his marker, and calmly placed the ball into the net beating goalkeeper Lloris to snatch a 90th-minute equaliser and force extra time.
In extra time, Mbappe squandered a great chance when Pogba played him in and Olivier Giroud’s header was stopped by Sommer. But with neither side able to find the net again, a penalty shoot-out was needed to separate them.
Despite the pressure, both sides were flawless from the spot until Sommer read Mbappe’s kick perfectly and swatted the ball away, sparking wild celebrations from the Swiss players and supporters, as France crashed out.
On a memorable evening for Swiss football, they repeatedly beat the odds coming from 3-1 down with two goals in the final five minutes to force extra time and eventually penalties. It was Switzerland’s first ever tournament shootout win.
Vladimir Petković’s subsitutions and reading of the game were instrumental in defeating the world champions. Credit also goes to the Swiss players who displayed great determination, and to the Swiss goalkeeper who constantly kept his side in the contest all through the match.
“Honestly I am still in shock,” said Swiss goalkeeper Sommer, who became the most capped Swiss keeper with 65 international appearances.
“We showed courage, heart, we left everything out there. When you come back from two goals down against the world champions it is just unbelievable, and then to win on penalties, I could not be prouder of the way we did it.”
Switzerland will next face Spain on Friday in St Petersburg.
Euro 2020 results
Croatia 3-5 Spain (After extra time)
France 3-3 Switzerland (4-5 on Penalties)