France take on Switzerland after Spain win Euro 2020 thriller


Paris (AFP) – Alvaro Morata netted an all-important goal in extra time as Spain progressed to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 by beating Croatia 5-3 on Monday in the game of the tournament so far, ahead of world champions France’s clash with Switzerland.

The winners of the late match between France and their Swiss neighbours in Bucharest will advance to a quarter-final against Spain in Saint Petersburg on Friday.

On a crazy evening in Copenhagen Spain, the 2008 and 2012 European champions, went behind against Luka Modric’s Croatia and came back to lead 3-1 before conceding twice late on to set up extra time.

That was when Morata, the Atletico Madrid striker who has been panned for his performances by critics and subjected to abuse from fans, controlled a Dani Olmo cross and volleyed home in the 100th minute.

Mikel Oyarzabal then secured Spain’s victory in what was the highest-scoring game at a European Championship since the opening match of the very first tournament in 1960, when Yugoslavia defeated hosts France 5-4.

Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runners-up, had been gifted a first-half lead when Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon allowed Pedri’s back-pass to slip under his foot and in.

But Luis Enrique’s side had been the better team prior to that and they levelled in the run-up to half-time through Pablo Sarabia before appearing to run away with the tie in the second half.

Manchester City winger Ferran Torres crossed for Cesar Azpilicueta to head in his first goal for his country, more than eight years after his international debut, and Torres then made it 3-1.

However, Croatia substitute Mislav Orsic pulled one back with five minutes left, the referee indicating that the ball had just crossed the line, and then fellow substitute Mario Pasalic headed in a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser.

Croatia, who came through three ties that were not settled before extra time on their run to the World Cup final in Russia, could not recover after falling 5-3 down.

It is the first time Spain have won a knockout tie at a major tournament since their 4-0 demolition of Italy in Kiev in the final of Euro 2012.

– Bigger crowd in Bucharest –

Pre-tournament favourites France have struggled to find their best form in the competition, producing a narrow opening win over Germany and then draws against Hungary and Portugal.

Kylian Mbappe is yet to find the net and coach Didier Deschamps has been hit by injuries to a number of fringe squad members.

“I have a lot of respect for Switzerland, it’s not for nothing that they’re 13th in the FIFA world rankings,” Deschamps said.

The Swiss have not won a knockout tie at a major tournament since the 1930s.

Deschamps’ side played their last two group games in Budapest, which is the only Euro 2020 venue without restrictions on capacity related to Covid-19, and local authorities in Bucharest increased the number of fans allowed to attend the game at the National Arena.

Around 25,000 supporters were permitted in the stands in the Romanian capital, amounting to half the overall capacity.

Spain await the winners of that game in Saint Petersburg, with the Russian city maintained as the host venue despite the city posting a new pandemic high for daily virus deaths.

Russia’s tournament organisers told AFP on Monday the fixture will take place at the Krestovsky Stadium as planned. 

– ‘Real opportunity’ for England –

The final last-16 ties will be played on Tuesday, with the blockbuster showdown between England and Germany at Wembley preceding Sweden’s clash with Ukraine in Glasgow.

If England beat Joachim Loew’s team on Tuesday, it will be only their second knockout stage win at a European Championship.

“It is a fantastic game to be involved in and a real opportunity for us to progress to a quarter-final,” said England manager Gareth Southgate on Monday.

“It is a big opponent with excellent pedigree and great experience.”

On Sunday, Belgium beat holders Portugal 1-0 in Seville to set up a quarter-final against Italy in Munich.

The Czech Republic defeated the Netherlands 2-0 and will play Denmark in Baku on Saturday.

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