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Switzerland knocks Italy out of the European Championship – and now dreams of the final

Switzerland knocks Italy out of the European Championship – and now dreams of the final
Switzerland knocks Italy out of the European Championship – and now dreams of the final

Almost all of the players are under contract with top European clubs – but Switzerland is still considered an outsider at the European Championships. This will probably be over after a great performance against Italy.

Minutes before the end, when a party in Swiss red was already raging in the stands to the left and right of the Marathon Gate in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was seen standing all alone in the Italian half, with his arms outstretched, his palms flat, his shoulders hunched – a gesture somewhere between helplessness and despair.

Donnarumma kept looking towards the coaching zone, but the “Commissario Tecnico” had long since turned his back on him. Italy’s national coach Luciano Spalletti angrily stalked back towards the substitutes’ bench and tapped his forehead with his index finger. Which probably meant: Are they all crazy now?

Italy beaten by the Swiss

These were the players who, according to Spalletti, should “take off their suits” and “eat grass” at this European Championship. Nicolò Barella, midfield strategist of the Italian champions Inter Milan, had even announced: “I will spit blood for this jersey”.

None of that happened. Italy accepted its fate, a great football nation sank, as if paralyzed on that oppressively humid Saturday evening in Berlin. Not even defeated by Switzerland, but rather outplayed by a team that used to be classified as a “football dwarf”.

Switzerland beats defending champion Italy in the round of 16 – the video highlights

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But, as we have seen not only this evening, there are no longer any “football dwarves”. The football business is globalized, and the differences are becoming less pronounced. Six players from the squad of Swiss coach Murat Yakin alone play in the Italian Serie A. This is why there were warm hugs in the dressing room between the Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer and the Italian national players. They know each other, they respect each other. A family reunion.

The Swiss play everywhere – except in Switzerland

The Swiss squad, which had already brought the German team to the brink of defeat, includes players from all sorts of top European clubs – but (almost) none from Switzerland. They are under contract with Inter Milan, Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund or Bayers Leverkusen – in the bel étage of European football.

But they have the passion of an underdog. And in Murat Yakin they have a coach who has obviously studied the current tactical developments around the world very closely in order to combine them into a mixture that can be toxic for any opponent. “Berlin, Berlin, we’re going to Berlin!” rang out from the Swiss fan block equipped with cowbells. And yet they have already been to Berlin – but they want to come back for the final.

Final? Switzerland? Really?

Italy after defeat

“So much can happen,” said Yakin after the game. “The journey is not over yet.” England as the next opponent in the quarter-finals? England can come – thinks Murat Yakin.

They may already be European champions of mentality

These Swiss are perhaps already European champions in mentality. Before the Italy match, the players produced a video in which they thanked the physiotherapists, assistant coaches, chefs and kit managers – all the silent helpers who are also part of the success. A close-knit group, equipped with an indomitable will. After the goal to make it 1-0, one of the players promptly tore down the barrier tape in the Olympic Stadium that separated the interior from the spectators so that he could really bask in the cheers of the crowd.

Before this European Championship, everyone was talking about Austria as the “secret favorite.” The Swiss, on the other hand, have somehow flown under the radar of public perception for the past few years. They have reached the knockout phase of every major tournament since the 2014 World Cup. At the last European Championship, they even defeated the then reigning world champions France in the round of 16 and advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time.

A team that can hurt any opponent is grouped around the axis of key players Xhaka, Akanji and Sommer. Sometimes they press high, stifle the opponent’s opening play, annoy and stress them and prevent the opponent from getting into their rhythm. Then again they drop back deep, with five men in the last line.

The Swiss then lure the other team into their own half in order to switch quickly after winning the ball and, above all, to surprise the remaining opposition defence on the left side. Players like Ndoye and Embolo repeatedly sneaked behind the backs of the Italian defence in Berlin, preferably into the interfaces between the full-back and central defence.

So the football god wanted to humiliate the “Squadra Azzurra” one last time

Ruben Vargas’ goal to make it 2-0 was so typical of the Swiss game that every analysis scout will include it in their video clip collection in the future. A short flat pass combination in the left half of the field stunned the Italians, who were mostly content to watch in amazement – then a pass to Vargas in the left corner of the penalty area. He was not attacked and so he shot a curling shot into the right corner of the goal, which was strikingly reminiscent of the Italians’ equaliser in the game against Croatia, the goal that had breathed life into them one last time in the eighth minute of stoppage time.

It was as if the football god wanted to humiliate the proud “Squadra Azzurra” once again in a particularly perfidious way.

When it was all over, a reporter confronted the Italian coach with a nasty metaphor: Switzerland had looked like a Ferrari, while Italy’s national team looked more like “a Fiat Panda”. Luciano Spalletti reacted with some emotion, but then with a dash of confidence. “I can tell from your question that you are a very ironic person. But when you lose, you have to accept everything.”

Source: Stern

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