France were knocked out 5-4 on penalties by Switzerland in surprise fashion in the last 16 of Euro 2020 with Kylian Mbappe missing the deciding penalty kick.
Haris Seferovic had given Vladimir Petkovic’s Switzerland a shocking lead only 15 minutes into the game, but Ricardo Rodriguez’s penalty was brilliantly saved by Hugo Lloris after Karim Benzema gave his captain advice on which way to dive, early in the second half.
I’d like to quote Rodriguez who had just spurned the chance to take command of the game (to which, very shortly after, France responded with two quick fire goals to turn the game on its head). He said:
Everyone thinks France are going to win, and that is an advantage for us.via UEFA Euro 2020
Well, it certainly was.
Karim Benzema- recalled to the France squad for the tournament after a five year international exile- then scored a brace to put the Euro 2016 finalists back in control of their fate.
Switzerland would not be denied their glory, however, as Mario Gavranovic equalised in the 90th minute with a fine strike into the bottom left corner- leaving Lloris no chance. In the end, Switzerland came back from 3-1 down before Yann Sommer easily saved Kylian Mbappe’s poor penalty to land Switzerland a quarter-final showdown against Spain.
It was an incredible evening. I am so proud of the team. At 3-1 nobody believed in us anymore, but before the match we said we’ll fight until the end whatever happens.said Yann Sommer
Wonder goals, penalty saves & last minute equalisers. Switzerland’s mental strength to persevere after missing a penalty against the current World Champions, led to a night filled with ever increasing drama.
The two goals came very quickly after the missed penalty. For normal players it’s almost impossible to come back from, but today we were a great team and everyone gave it everything.said Vladimir Petković
Didier Deschamps changed to a 3-4-1-2 formation designed to utilise the best from his attacking front three of Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, and Benzema. However, it was on the break that Seferovic gave the Swiss a surprising lead.
Steven Zuber utilised the space created by Rodriguez’s overlap, putting in a wonderful curling cross that the Benfica striker headed past Lloris after rising far higher than Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet. Perhaps the rust of his irregular playing time was beginning to show last night as he was exposed on more than one occasion and Switzerland could have even gone 4-3 up before the final whistle was blown.
After an appalling first half, in which France showed no penetration, Les Bleus had not even managed to force a single save out of Sommer. Deschamps finally gave up on his tinkered strategy, substituting off Clement Lenglet and introducing Kingsley Coman while reverting to a more tried and trusted 4-4-2.
France had only their captain to thank for sparing their blushes, after a lung bursting run from Zuber resulted in a penalty for the Swiss when he was brought down by Benjamin Parvard- who slid in and caught him with his follow through.
The Argentine referee initially allowed play to go on, but Fernando Rapallini immediately pointed to the spot following a VAR review. Benzema then had a quick word with his captain, giving him some hints as to which way he should dive. Lloris flung himself to his right to palm away Rodriguez’s effort- the seventh missed penalty of 15 taken at the tournament. That’s nearly half of them…
The momentum soon shifted with lightning speed in France’s favour as Benzema, scorer of both goals in the 2-2 draw with Portugal in the group phase, superbly adjusted his body and controlled a pass from Mbappe into his stride, dinking it over Sommer to equalise.
The Real Madrid forward then headed France in front only two minutes later when Griezmann played a one two with Mbappe to get in, something they were not able to previously in the game, and his chipped effort was parried away by Sommer but only to a salivating Benzema, who headed in the rebound into an empty net. A true poachers goal.
Pogba is undoubtedly my man of the match. The Man United man curled a magnificent 25-yard strike and had France on the brink of reaching the quarter finals, but Seferovic powered in a terrific delivery from substitute Kevin Mbabu with nine minutes left to reignite the Swiss hopes once again.
Gavranovic then had a goal ruled out for offside, but there was no doubting his last-minute equaliser as he showed great skill to completely turn Presnel Kimpembe and left him sliding passed as he composed himself and drove low beyond Lloris right hand.
Unbelievably, Coman nearly stole the game in the final minute of injury time with the very last kick of normal time, showing great control with his chest and volleying toward goal only to be denied by the crossbar.
An ailing Benzema was taken off at the start of extra time for Olivier Giroud, moments before Sommer tipped over admirably to deny Parvard a goal.
Pogba put Mbappe through with a defence splitting ball through the Swiss defence but the Paris Saint-Germain attacker sliced wide, with Sommer flying to his right to grab Giroud’s header before his penalty heroics, which came at the expense of the star player of France’s World Cup triumph in 2018, Kylian Mbappe.
It’s painful, even more so after a penalty shootout where it becomes a lottery.said Hugo Lloris
Euro 2020 opens up even more now, & remaining qualifying teams like England, Spain, and Italy will be licking their lips at the thought of France no longer being present in the tournament.
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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images