Switzerland and Spain, the two victors from a barnstorming night of Euro 2020 action, meet on Friday evening in the first quarter-final.
The Swiss dispatched the tournament favourites France on penalties after a 3-3 draw, having earlier in the day already seen Spain see off Croatia in an eight-goal thriller.
It’s to Saint Petersburg next, then, with a place in the semi-finals at stake, where the winner will face either Italy or Belgium.
Upstart Switzerland takes on mighty Spain to open Euro 2020 quarterfinal play on Friday. Here’s a quick look at the matchup.
Time, TV: Noon Eastern, ESPN.
Location: Krestovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg.
Odds (as of Wednesday, per DraftKings): Spain -148, Switzerland +450, draw +280.
How they got here: Switzerland qualified for the knockout round as a third-place team out of Group A, drawing with Wales, losing to Italy but beating Turkey. The Swiss then stunned defending World Cup champion France in the quarterfinals on penalty kicks.
Spain finished second in Group E after draws with Sweden and Poland and a blowout of Slovakia. La Furia Roja then scored a wild 5-3 win over Croatia in the quarterfinals.
European Championship history: This is Switzerland’s first quarterfinal appearance in five European Championship berths. Spain is a three-time champion that has reached the knockout round in eight of 11 appearances.
Switzerland trap the French
France could well have won the Euros had they beaten the Swiss. But the French acted so confidently that they handed Switzerland a ticket to the quarterfinals. Having crushed their opponents in the middle of the second half, the French stopped and allowed the Swiss to get back into the game. In the end, the reigning world champions were let down by Killian Mbappe, who was the only one who failed to convert a penalty in the penalty shoot-out.
Yes, France essentially lost to themselves. But it does not diminish the merits of Switzerland. Vladimir Petkovic’s team squeezed out all the opportunities they had and deservedly made it through. Benfica forward Haris Seferovic should be singled out for special mention. The 29-year-old scored a double in the last 16. In total, Seferovic has already scored 3 goals at UEFA EURO 2020. Isn’t he a contender for the tournament’s top scorer?
Spain play unbalanced
Luis Enrique’s team, although they have scored 10 goals in their last two games against Slovakia and Croatia, do not look unbeaten. The Slovaks were unable to cope with the pressure in their final group-stage match. And in the meeting with Croatia, the Spaniards scored two goals in extra time. Three goals were not enough for La Roja to win in regulation time. Also, we must not forget the number of losses that prevented Croatia from fielding the best squad. Even without Perišić and Lovren, however, Zlatko Dalic’s team almost stopped Spain.
Pedri’s own goal midway through the first half against Croatia was also a telling moment. Spain are, after all, a very inexperienced team at this tournament. Busquets and Koke work well in midfield; Azpilicueta and Gaya are effective on the wings. But will this be enough for the decisive matches? The further into the tournament, the more likely it is that mistakes like Pedri’s own goal will ruin the Spanish side. Team-wide experience may simply be lacking.