In an exciting battle to the end, Spain did what it should have done much earlier. Earn from Switzerland. In a penalty shootout after 1-1, with the Swiss team less intense than the French, the Spaniards returned to the favorites for the first time since winning the European Championship in 2012.
By Edwin Winkels
Spain is the place where even fans in their home country did not expect the team before the European Championship, in the semi-finals. Thanks to Unai Simon, who was initially damaged in the previous match due to his blunder on the back pass. Despite missing two penalty kicks in the decisive series. It took some effort, but the better team won.
The unpopular team also, with a number of players unknown even to the Spaniards, often keep big clubs abroad, and without a single Real Madrid player, he did not raise many high expectations and could not count on great sympathy.
But ten goals against weak Slovakia and treacherous and resilient Croatia, despite finishing second in the last World Championships, fueled something of the European Championship fever. And although the team themselves did their best to quell this fever by playing modestly with few chances against weak and innocent Switzerland, the semi-finals at Wembley would make the country succumb to selection.
However, it was a long wait. Even against ten men, after Froller’s red card, Spain could not bring the Swiss to their knees. It had to come from penalty shootouts, as Spain missed twice of the first three, but the opponent could not regain the magic of five penalty shootouts that were crucial against France. Goalkeeper Sumer cannot be the hero he was on Monday. Oyarzabal scored the winning goal, but goalkeeper Unai Simon, who scored the dumb own goal against Croatia, is now the hero with a suspended penalty shootout.
Switzerland and Spain failed to repeat their counterparts on Monday in hot Saint Petersburg for five-quarters of an hour. The pressure was one notch higher again, with the semi-finals approaching, and the opening up in the eighth finals gave way to caution. Such fierce battles that lasted for more than two hours over France and Croatia respectively are physically and emotionally exhausting.
Spain played their usual game, based not only on continuous tapping and passing within minutes of possession, but also on recovering the ball as quickly as possible after losing it in an attack. But it was less fierce, ambitious, and less modern than facing Croatia.
The Spaniards were unable to capitalize on a lucky early goal when Jordi Alba suddenly grabbed the ball to his boot after a corner kick veered. Zakaria, replacing suspended and frequently missed captain Xhaka, cleared the ball just enough to put goalkeeper Sommer, one of the champions against France, on the wrong foot: 0-1.
Then Spain relied on this possession to defend this small lead, as if the team wanted to shake the opponent to sleep, inviting him to take a late nap together. With this 0-1 result, the Swiss, who did not hit or shoot among the three places in the first half, kept the hope of a return like the one against France.
Then what happened about 70 minutes later, shortly after the first click between the columns, which Simon still saved. Tensions piled up on the Spaniards, the Swiss kept awake, and an inadvertent dumb mess between central duo Laporte and Pau Torres put the ball under the feet of young captain Shaqiri, who played little for Liverpool last season and scored just once. But he did not forget about it yet, and he drew with his country (1-1) and the dream of repeating “France” approached.
Until Freuler saw the red card fifteen minutes before the end due to a somewhat uncontrolled slip on Gerard Moreno’s legs. If Spain already has the ball against eleven players, then this match comes in possession of it against ten players. But Switzerland extended the match until extra time, when Spain once again showed some attacking spirit and passion. Goalkeeper Sommer seemed to be the champion again, standing in his way with every chance Spain created. But in the absolutely uncertain penalty shootouts, in which there are no favorites anymore, Spain, which had missed the last five matches from eleven metres, was a little more accurate.
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