Mbappe the culprit as Switzerland stun France on penalties

By: AFP      Published: 09:03 AM, 29 Jun, 2021
Mbappe the culprit as Switzerland stun France on penalties
Switzerland's goalkeeper Yann Sommer (C) and teammates celebrate their win in the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest.–AFP

Switzerland defeated world champions France 5-4 on penalties in the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Monday as Kylian Mbappe missed the decisive spot-kick in the shootout following a thrilling 3-3 draw in Bucharest. 

Mario Gavranovic equalised in the 90th minute as Switzerland came from two goals down before Yann Sommer saved Mbappe's penalty to book Switzerland a quarter-final clash against Spain.

"It was an incredible evening. I am so proud of the team," said goalkeeper Sommer.

"At 3-1 nobody believed in us anymore, but before the match we said we'll fight until the end whatever happens." 

Haris Seferovic had given Vladimir Petkovic's Switzerland a shock lead on 15 minutes but Ricardo Rodriguez's spot-kick was brilliantly saved by Hugo Lloris early in the second half.

Karim Benzema, recalled to the France squad for the tournament after a five-and-a-half-year international exile, then struck a quick-fire double to put the Euro 2016 finalists back on track.

Paul Pogba's sensational curling effort made it 3-1, but Switzerland forced extra time as Seferovic grabbed his second of the game before Gavranovic levelled in the final minute.

Switzerland converted all five of their penalties before Sommer dived to his right to turn away Mbappe's kick, as the Swiss won a major tournament knockout tie for first time in 83 years.

"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 Petkovic.

Lloris conceded France paid the price for failing to hold on to their two-goal lead.

"It's painful, even more so after a penalty shootout where it becomes a lottery," said Lloris.

"The only regret we can have is that at 3-1 we need to manage the match better. We've been able to close it out in the past few years."

France coach Didier Deschamps controversially switched to a 3-4-1-2 formation designed to extract the best from his attacking trio of Benzema, Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, but it was instead Seferovic who gave the Swiss a surprise lead.

Steven Zuber used the space afforded by Rodriguez's overlapping run, clipping in a left-wing cross that Seferovic headed past Lloris after rising all too easily above Clement Lenglet.

After a dismal first half, in which France failed to test Sommer, Deschamps ditched the experiment of three at the back, hauling off Lenglet and introducing Kingsley Coman while reverting to a more familiar 4-4-2.

- Lloris saves penalty -

But France were indebted to Lloris for sparing them from further trouble after a lung-busting run from Zuber eventually resulted in a penalty for the Swiss when he was brought down by Benjamin Pavard.

Argentine referee Fernando Rapallini immediately pointed to the spot following a VAR review, but Lloris flung himself to his right to claw away Rodriguez's attempt -- the seventh missed penalty of 15 taken at the tournament. 

The momentum soon swung sharply in France's favour as Benzema, scorer of both goals in the 2-2 draw with Portugal in the group phase, superbly dragged a pass from Mbappe into his stride, lifting over Sommer to level.

The Real Madrid striker headed France in front two minutes later when Griezmann's dinked effort was turned away by Sommer but only to a waiting Benzema who headed in from point-blank range.

Pogba's magnificent 25-yard strike had France on the cusp of the last eight, but Seferovic powered in a terrific delivery from substitute Kevin Mbabu with nine minutes left to give the Swiss hope.

Gavranovic then had a goal ruled out for offside, but there was no doubting his last-minute equaliser as he skipped past Presnel Kimpembe and drove low beyond Lloris.

Remarkably, Coman nearly won the game with the final kick, rattling the crossbar right at the end of injury time.

An ailing Benzema was withdrawn at the start of extra time for Olivier Giroud, moments before Sommer tipped over superbly to deny Pavard.  

Pogba released Mbappe with a piercing pass through the Swiss defence but the Paris Saint-Germain forward sliced wide, with Sommer flying to his right to grasp Giroud's header before his penalty heroics, which came at the expense of the star of France's World Cup triumph in 2018.

England face Germany in Euro 2020 blockbuster

England can avenge decades of hurt at the hands of Germany when they face their old rivals in a blockbuster Euro 2020 last-16 clash on Tuesday.

Gareth Southgate's side host Germany at Wembley at 1600 GMT in what is England's biggest match on home turf for 25 years.

England beat the Germans to win the 1966 World Cup final, but their major tournament history has been littered with painful exits against them since then.

A quarter-final loss at the 1970 World Cup ended England's reign as champions, while the 1990 World Cup semi-final defeat on penalties is still etched in the nation's psyche.

When England last played at home in a tournament, Southgate was the Euro 96 fall guy as he missed a crucial penalty in the semi-final shoot-out defeat.

There was also a heavy defeat at the 2010 World Cup yet Southgate, aware of the debilitating weight of that history, insists the tie is not a chance to exorcise the ghosts of past England failures.

Instead, he believe it is a chance for his players to add a memorable new chapter to their personal stories.

"This team, I've said for a long time, have had so many unique achievements and my focus is on this team and helping them to succeed," Southgate said.

"This is about our players. This is their moment and it's their opportunity."

- 'Loser goes home' -

Asked if perhaps his Euro 96 pain would give his players extra motivation to win it for him, Southgate said: "Good grief, no. I don't think we'll be relying on that!

"So, no, this is about them. This is about them having a chance to achieve something, and certainly not for me to take any shine off of that."

England have never won the European Championship and a victory against Germany would be only their second knockout stage win in the history of the competition.

In contrast, Germany have been crowned kings of Europe three times, with the most recent success coming in 1996.

However, Germany travelled to London in the unusual position of fearing defeat against England.

Joachim Loew's team stumbled into the last 16 after rescuing a 2-2 draw against Hungary in their final group game.

Germany are not the intimidating force of old and, with Loew stepping down at the end of the tournament, a defeat would signal the end of an era.

Despite winning the World Cup in 2014, Loew has been criticised for his role in a humiliating group-stage exit from the 2018 World Cup and a series of poor results before the Euro.

"All in all, I thought about it for two seconds," said Loew ahead of potentially his last game.

"This is my passion. My whole focus is on the match and I hope we will succeed."

England will have the vast majority of a 40,000 crowd on their side at Wembley and Loew expects a spine-tingling encounter.

"This is a match which electrifies everybody. For both teams, it's in or out, it's now or never, the loser goes home," he said.

The winner will face a quarter-final in Rome against the winner of Tuesday's late tie between Sweden and Ukraine, which will be played in Glasgow.