The 67 years drought since Switzerland’s last quarter-finals appearance at a major tournament finally comes to an end after Kylian Mbappe missed the fifth decisive penalty shootout hence sending France home.
An awful start from Les Blues
Swiss’ staggering resilience annihilated the reigning World Cup champion in another awe-inspiring evening match at Bucharest to reach European Championships 2020 last eight. Didier Deschamps’s men who came in favour of adding a continental title to the World Cup were yet to put forth a convincing performance despite coming first in the ‘Group of Death.’ A drew against Hungary, which has no star players, indicated Les Blues are surprisingly evitable; they are not that flawless after all. It was anticipated to be an ‘easy game’ from France’s attacking trio, but instead, they were unable to gain traction on the pitch.
Albeit scrapping through knockout stages, Switzerland manifested the impossible possible with a terrific early header by Haris Seferović only 15 minutes into the match. The Les Blues got off to a fast start with Raphael Varane headed over from a corner where Mbappe and Karim Benzema both looked threatening in the box. However, it didn’t last long before the back three system that they are not familiar with chocked them back. The European Championships favourite’s favourite appeared sluggish and uninspired in the rest of the first half – Swiss looked more thristy to win.
Karim Benzema’s sensational goal
That’s the beauty of sport, either ‘big guns’ or underdogs have an equal chance to win, and it’s always the better team who progresses. There is no room for mistakes in the most crucial Round of 16, which requires everything to be done right from the start. The Swiss lost the golden opportunity of doubling their lead after Hugo Lloris denied Ricardo Rodriguez’s penalty kick to keep France in the game.
Benzema expertly flicked the ball from a pass of Mbappe with his back foot to level before he turned the table around for Les Blues to take the lead in the 59th minute. France, who had reversed into their original four-back formation in the second half, scored its third goal through Paul Pogba’s ‘worldie’ shot. When it seemed that France would be ready to face Spain in the quarterfinals, Switzerland pulled out the magic card through Mario Gavranovic’s late equalizer – seconds before the end of normal time. France could have won comfortably, but Vladimir Petkovic’s men refused to give in and scored two goals in the final five minutes. Both sides were then forced into extra time, eventually the penalty shootout.
Unresolved brewing feud
Mbappe previously linked with Oliver Giroud, who publicly expressed his disappointment that he had not received enough passes after a friendly match before the European Championships 2020 seemed to be a brewing feud. The tension between these two may or may not have been resolved because truth to be told, I felt there wasn’t any form of unity or togetherness in this squad – they looked divided. Well, I hope I’m wrong, though.
Not only did we get to see France got humbled, but perhaps this loss-no-one-expected was cursed with overconfidence among players. With no doubt, Granit Xhaka and the team deserved to advance because their courage, incredible esprit de corps, and hope are truly remarkable. Against all the odds, when no one believe in them, and just like that, France’s European Championships 2020 is now over. It is not surprising if it would be another year for an underdog team because recent winners seldom shone in the group stage.