Xhaka heroic, as spirited Switzerland dump France out of Euro 2020 on penalties

Date published: Monday 28th June 2021 10:48 - Neil Foster

Granit Xhaka, Switzerland v France, Euro 2020

Granit Xhaka produced a man of the match display as Switzerland dumped France out of Euro 2020 on penalties after Kylian Mbappe saw his sudden death spot-kick saved.

Switzerland took a 1-0 lead into the break after Haris Seferovic opened the scoring in the 15th minute.

They had a chance to add to their lead 10 minutes into the second half when they were awarded a penalty after Steven Zuber went down in the penalty area under a challenge from Benjamin Pavard.

However, Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris was able to pull off a magnificent stop diving low to his right which sparked a ferocious French fightback.

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Two minutes later, Les Bleus were on level terms through Karim Benzema. The Real Madrid veteran flicked the ball into his own path from Kylian Mbappe’s pass before poking past the keeper.

And a couple of minutes later it was 2-1 to France. Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe combined well before the ball looped to Benzema who bagged his second of the night.

The world champions then kept up the pressure and it was backs to the wall for Switzerland. Paul Pogba dominated the midfield and Mbappe went close on a couple of occasions.

But it was the Manchester United midfielder who added a third on 75 minutes. Benzema’s strike was blocked and the ball fell to Pogba whose superb long-range strike nestled in the top corner and gave Sommer no chance.

But Seferovic bagged his second in the 81st minute to reduce the deficit to one goal and set up a tense finale.

And there was to be further drama at the death when the Swiss equalised in the 90th minute through substitute Mario Gavranovic, who had seen a goal chalked off for offside minutes earlier.

Kingsley Coman hit the crossbar in the dying moments but neither team was able to find a winner and the game went to extra time.

Sommer produced a spectacular save to deny Pavard soon into the first extra time period. The goalkeeper displayed tremendous reflexes to tip the full-back’s drive over the bar.

N’Golo Kante and Coman then combined well down the eft to carve out a chance for Mbappe. The hitman fired goalward first time but saw his strike drift narrowly wide.

Mbappe was again in the heat of the action seconds later when played in on goal by Pogba. The opportunity called out for a first-time strike, but Mbappe uncharacteristically hesitated before slashing wide from an increasingly acute angle.

The surprise figure of Granit Xhaka had gone toe-to-toe with Pogba all night in the quarterback role. Both Man Utd and Arsenal fans must’ve been wondering where these types of elite performances have been at club level over the past few years.

With less than two minutes remaining, substitute Olivier Giroud’s leaping header drew another save from Sommer, while a late Xhaka free-kick flew over the bar to bring the dreaded penalty shoot-out to Euro 2020 for the first time.

Switzerland scored their first penalty before Pogba responded with a postage stamp effort.

Both sides retained a 100 percent record from the spot until the fifth penalties with only Lloris managing to get a hand on any of the eight strikes.

Switzerland scored their fifth, putting an entire nation’s hopes on the shoulders of Mbappe to do the same.

Unfortunately, every shoot-out has a villain and on this occasion, Mbappe saw his effort superbly saved by the diving Sommer as Switzerland completed one of the most dramatic upsets in European Championship history.

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