Sunday, August 7, 2022

Switzerland 1-1 Spain (aet, 1-3 pens): Unconvincing La Roja reach Euro 2020 semi-finals after nervy

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 2 Jul 2021


Spain will contest their first major tournament semi-final since 2012 despite failing to beat 10-man Switzerland after extra-time, with La Roja finally getting the job done on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Luis Enrique’s men were dominant throughout and even had a man advantage throughout extra-time, and although their finishing left a lot to be desired, they proved more clinical from 12 yards than the Swiss.

It was a Switzerland player who provided the decisive touch to put Spain one up as Denis Zakaria scored an early own goal, but they capitalised on a defensive error to level through Xherdan Shaqiri in the second period.

Spain could not take advantage of Remo Freuler’s contentious sending off, with Yann Sommer starring between the posts for Switzerland, but even he could not make up for his team’s profligacy from the spot as Mikel Oyarzabal converted the winning kick.

Initially Spain looked on course to cruise, as they went in front after just eight minutes when Jordi Alba saw his fierce effort take a massive deflection off Zakaria en route to goal.

Switzerland had only looked a threat from set-pieces and went very close to levelling early in the second half, as Zakaria’s header from a Steven Zuber corner flew agonisingly wide.

But Spain were their own worst enemy in the 68th minute.

Aymeric Laporte intercepted a pass but knocked the ball against Pau Torres in the process, and Freuler was on hand to tee up Shaqiri, who found the bottom-left corner through Cesar Azpilicueta’s legs.

Freuler’s match ended soon after, however, as he was controversially shown a straight red for a tackle on Gerard Moreno that was deemed dangerous by referee Michael Oliver, and although Switzerland held on to force extra-time, the odds were stacked against them achieving anything more.

Spain peppered the Swiss goal, with Sommer making numerous vital saves and Ricardo Rodriguez producing a remarkable block to deny Marcos Llorente.

Switzerland took the game to a shoot-out and were given a positive start when Sergio Busquets hit the post, but Fabian Schar, Manuel Akanji and Ruben Vargas all failed to find the net, and Oyarzabal ensured Spain wrapped it up at the first time of asking.

What does it mean? Spain prevail despite themselves

While Spain did ultimately get the job done, no part of this was impressive. They were not exactly a constant threat to the Swiss goal between the opener and the red card, and thereafter they were so wasteful in front of goal.

Their 3.0 xG is evidence enough that the quality of their chances were more than sufficient to get past Switzerland before penalties, but it also highlights how poor they were at taking those opportunities.

Italy or Belgium await, and it is difficult to see either of them letting La Roja off the hook.

500 saves of Sommer

In extra-time it certainly seemed like 500 saves, anyway. The Switzerland shot-stopper was exceptional as he made 10 saves, more than any other goalkeeper has in a single Euro 2020 game, while those equated to the prevention of 1.5 goals. He did his best in the shoot-out, saving from Rodri, but he was ultimately – undeservedly – on the losing side.

Moreno fails to show up Morata

Brought on for the quiet and much-maligned Alvaro Morata, Moreno endured a difficult time of it. While he was lively, with six shots, his three on target all failed to hit the net. His 3.3 xG is the most of any player yet to score at Euro 2020.

What’s next?

Spain are now off to Wembley for the semi-final, where they will face either Belgium or Italy.


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