Enrique: ‘We played well enough to win even before the shootout’
Spain coach Luis Enrique believes that Spain are among the strongest contenders remaining in the tournament, and deserved to go through after beating Switzerland on penalties.
Switzerland and Spain met at the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg, Russia, with a ticket to the semifinal awaiting the winners of this match. The initial exchanges saw Spain dominate possession as the Swiss players played backwards, hoping to capitalize on any misplaced passes. And that’s exactly what was happening when Switzerland launched some early counterattacks, but to no avail.
The first advance came early in favor of La Roja, when the ball from a Spanish corner fell on Jordi Alba outside the Swiss area, which crashed him for the first time. The deflected shot was deflected by Zakaria, who was replacing a suspended granite Xhaka, leaving Sommer on the wrong foot and the ball ending up in the back of the net.
After the opening goal, Spain continued to play with high defense, dominating possession and looking menacing up front, exploiting spaces with exquisite passing and movement. The Swiss suffered another unfortunate setback when Breel Embolo was injured and was replaced by Rubén Vargas.
Switzerland appeared to be a completely different team in the first ten minutes of the second period, attacking fiercely. Zakaria almost made amends when his weak header from a Swiss corner went just over the post. The Swiss looked dangerous going forward and nearly tied when Vargas got it right down the left, passing Zuber at an angle that stretched under pressure of two defenders of Spain, Switzerland finally found their tie after a defensive error by the two Spanish center-backs found Freuler, whose slip pass was thrown by Shaqiri into the lower left corner for the 1-1.
As things seemed to be moving in favor of the Swiss, they quickly deteriorated. Freuler saw the red card for his hard tackle on Gerard Moreno. The VAR took a quick look, but the referee’s decision was irrevocable. Switzerland seemed demoralized after the big decision, while Spain seemed to capitulate.
Spain looked threatening going forward as the first half of overtime began, trying to capitalize on their men’s advantage. They got dangerously close as Alba sent a beautiful cross from the left to Moreno, who was twenty feet away, but he got too far in and deflected it wide. Jordi Alba tried to do everything, as his poisonous shot minutes later from outside the area was overturned by Sommer over the crossbar.
There were 11 shots from Spain in that first half of overtime, but Sommer didn’t let any of them get past it. When the second half began, it was the same story, with Switzerland on the defensive, defending with all their might, and Spain trying to find a winner.
Sommer added another save to his stellar performance, as Gerard Moreno’s effort was easily saved by him and the game will be decided on penalties when 120 agonizing minutes ended.
Switzerland did their best until the last whistle, but failed to recreate their quarter-final feats, losing 3-1 on penalties to Spain.
Switzerland 1-1 Spain (AET) | 1-3 on Penalties
Zakaria (8) OG, Shaqiri (68)