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Euro 2020 Quarterfinals: Spain, Italy Forge Semifinal Tie; Belgium and Switzerland Exit Tournament : SOCCER : Sports World News




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Euro 2020 Quarterfinals: Spain, Italy Forge Semifinal Tie; Belgium and Switzerland Exit Tournament

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – JULY 02: Unai Simon of Spain celebrates with teammates after winning in a penalty shoot out during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Quarter-final match between Switzerland and Spain at Saint Petersburg Stadium on July 02, 2021 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo : Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Spain’s quest for a fourth European Championship title remained right on track after a nail-biting penalty shootout victory over Switzerland on Friday. It was a heart-stopping win for the Spaniards, who booked a spot in a major tournament semifinal for the first time since 2012.

Spain needed just eight minutes to break the deadlock, with Jordi Alba providing the opening goal. He rifled in an effort from Koke’s outswinging corner, with his shot attempt taking a major deflection off Denis Zakaria’s outstretched leg and past a helpless Yann Sommer.

Switzerland crumbles in the penalty shootout

Spain had chances to stretch their advantage, but Cesar Azpilicueta and Pau Torres nodded wide from corners. The Swiss made the Spaniards pay for those costly misses as they managed to find the equalizer in the 68th minute. Aymeric Laporte and Pau Torres had a terrible mix-up as they struggled to deal with a straightforward clearance. Remo Freuler pounced on that costly mistake as he teed up Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored to make it 1-1.

Freuler turned from hero to villain nine minutes later, as he was sent off to put Switzerland in a bind. He came in with a late sliding challenge on Spain’s Gerard Moreno, leaving referee Michael Oliver no other option but to give Freuler the red card.

With the Nati reduced to 10 men, the Spaniards ratcheted up their attack late in regulation and extra time. However, they were unable to find the game-winner against a resolute Switzerland defense with Gerard Moreno, Mikel Oyarzabal and Dani Olmo spurning several goal-scoring opportunities.

As the match went into the penalty shootout, many felt Switzerland had the edge. The Spaniards had missed each of their last five penalties while the Swiss are coming off a penalty shootout win over France, which saw them make all five of their spot-kicks.

However, that was not the case on Friday as Spain outlasted Switzerland, 3-1, in the penalty shootout. Switzerland looked to be on their way to another shootout win after Sergio Busquets fired against the post with Spain’s opening spot-kick. Unai Simón, however, proved to be the hero for Spain as he saved Fabian Schär and Manuel Akanji’s spot-kicks before Ruben Vargas blasted over, paving the way for Oyarzabal to hit the game-winning penalty.

Related ArticleEuro 2020 Quarterfinal Matches, Schedule and Preview

Italy extends winning run

Next up for Spain in the semifinals is a clash with European powerhouse Italy. The Azzurri booked their place in the semis with a narrow 2-1 win over Belgium. Nicolo Barella opened the scoring for the Italians with a fantastic finish past three defenders in the 31st minute before Lorenzo Insigne scored one of the goals of the tournament, curling in Italy’s second after a terrific run from the halfway line.

The Belgians set up a tense finish, though, after Romelu Lukaku scored a penalty late in the first half. However, the Italians managed to hold on to record their 13th consecutive win in all competitions as they extended their magnificent unbeaten run to 32 matches.

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