Spain in Euro 2020 semi-finals on penalties 3-1
Paris: Spain needed a penalty shootout to gain the upper hand over Switzerland and qualify for the Euro 2020 semi-finals on Friday.
European champion in 2008 and 2012, Spain beat Switzerland 3-1 on penalties after their quarter-final in St. Petersburg ended 1-1 at the end of extra time, with Mikel Oyarzabal scoring the winning kick.
Earlier, Luis Enrique’s side appeared to be coasting as Jordi Alba’s shot was deflected by Denis Zakaria to score on his own side to put Spain ahead in the eighth minute.
However, the Swiss had caused a sensation by knocking out world champions France in the round of 16 and they fought to equalize midway through the second half when disastrous defensive confusion between Spain’s center-backs Aymeric Laporte and Pau Torres allowed Xherdan Shaqiri to score.
Switzerland then held their ground in extra time after midfielder Remo Freuler was sent off in the 77th minute for a challenge over Gerard Moreno.
They had converted their five penalties on penalties against France and this time they had a head start when Sergio Busquets hit the post with Spain’s first effort.
Rodri didn’t score for Spain either, but Unai Simon saved Fabian Schaer and Manuel Akanji before Ruben Vargas caught fire.
Oyarzabal’s kick allowed Spain to pass and help banish the memory of their penalty shootout loss in the 2018 World Cup round of 16 against hosts in Russia.
Friday’s game took place in St. Petersburg despite major concerns over an increase in coronavirus cases in the Russian city, which is fueled by the Delta variant.
Earlier Friday, Russia reported 679 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, setting a pandemic death record for the fourth day in a row. St. Petersburg has recorded 101 deaths.
Nearly 25,000 spectators watched the match at the Krestovsky Stadium, which hosted some of the largest crowds allowed at the pandemic-stricken European Championship.
Spain now qualifies for the last four in London next Tuesday against Belgium or Italy.
Friday’s second game was a meeting between the world’s top-ranked team in Belgium and a side from Italy that set a national record of 31 unbeaten matches.
They are the only teams to have won all 10 qualifying matches and the only teams with the Netherlands to win every match in the group stage.
“You see the two best teams statistically in this competition,” said Belgium manager Roberto Martinez, whose team beat defending champions Portugal in the final round.
“We had to face Portugal very early on and now Italy and I think it’s a shame for the two national teams that we face each other at this stage.”
The whole week in Belgium preparation for the quarter-finals was dominated by fitness news from Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard – De Bruyne was deemed fit at the start but Hazard lost his race to be ready.
Italy were arguably the most impressive team of all in the group stage as they scored a total of seven unanswered goals ahead of Turkey, Switzerland and Wales in Rome.
They worked to beat Austria in overtime at Wembley in the round of 16, but their coach,
The remaining quarter-finals will be played on Saturday, when England – freshly beaten against Germany – face Ukraine in Rome.
England may not have many fans at the Stadio Olimpico due to Italy’s coronavirus rules, meaning all arrivals from the UK must be quarantined for five days.
Denmark face the Czech Republic in Baku exactly three weeks after Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in the Danes’ first game at the tournament.
Eriksen was released from hospital less than a week after his collapse after having a defibrillator implanted to regulate his heart rate, and without him, Kasper Hjulmand’s team rallied to reach the bottom eight.
“We will play with the heart of Christian Eriksen. He is always the heart of the team and with that heart and without fear we will try,” said Hjulmand.