Spain finally overcame their penalty hoodoo to defeat Switzerland in a quarter-final shootout on Friday and set up a clash with Belgium or Italy in the last four of Euro 2020.
An early Denis Zakaria own goal had been cancelled out by Xherdan Shaqiri, but Spain couldn’t go on to get a winner even after Switzerland’s Remo Freuler had been sent off. But the Spaniards had Unai Simon to thank as the goalkeeper saved two penalties in a 3-1 spot-kick win which sends them to Wembley.
Spain were showing once again that they are a shadow of the side that dominated the international stage a decade ago. They had much of the possession but it was not as fruitful as the side of the past. Their lack of goal threat was evident with both Álvaro Morata and Gerard Moreno squandering a host of chances to put the game to bed - it did after all take an own goal to put them in front in St Petersburg. They had countless chances once Switzerland went down to 10 men after Remo Freuler was dismissed for a dangerous tackle, but they lacked any composure in front of goal.
Spain have to be criticised for wasting their chances but they were also stopped by some excellent defending by the Swiss, who were giving their all to keep themselves in this colossal fixture. Even with the loss of Granit Xhaka, Switzerland performed brilliantly, and even when they lost Freuler you sensed they would still pose a threat given a chance. Sommer once again pulled off some outstanding saves even before the shootout as Vladimir Petković’s men deserved to take the game to penalties.
La Roja broke the deadlock early on when Jordi Alba’s effort from the edge of the box took a deflection off Denis Zakaria and nestled in the back of the net, leaving Sommer no chance. The Swiss did not let their heads drop as they looked to pull themselves back level, but they did suffer another setback when their energetic forward Embolo was forced off due to injury.
Switzerland continued to apply the pressure with an abundance of set-pieces in the second half and Zakaria nearly made amends for his own goal but his header from a corner flew just wide of the far post. Spain also showed their quality with their set-pieces too as Ferran Torres’ effort was deflected for a corner following a free-kick.
Zuber came close to equalising but was denied by a reactive save by Unai Simon but they finally got the goal they deserved after a mishap at the back between Aymeric Laporte and Pau Torres led to Shaqiri the simplest of finishes to level the scoreline.
The confidence in the Swiss ranks were dramatically lifted and they were willing to commit more bodies forward on the break. Spain still created a few openings themselves but they suffered from great defending and from players not being on the same wavelength.
Switzerland faced another setback late on when Freuler was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge on Moreno. As the game went into extra time, Moreno missed a glorious chance to edge La Roja in front from inside the penalty area. Sommer denied a courageous effort from Alba moments later. Moreno and Spain squandered a number of chances themselves but Sommer also haunted them as he pulled off some more excellent saves.
He would save two more from the spot in the shootout, but Ruben Vargas' failure to hit the target teed up a winning strike for Mikel Oyarzarbal and Spain were through.