As Dani Rojas’ catchphrase goes, “football is life”. Sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s good, often it’s a grind. And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s utterly spectacular and you hope it never ends.
That was Monday at Euro 2020/1 in the Round of 16, which blessed us not only with an eight-goal thriller between Croatia and Spain but also the six-goal drama of France and Switzerland, which could only be decided in a penalty kick shootout.
Other than their resolution, the two games played out with remarkable similarity. The underdogs took the early lead through an unlikely source inside the first 20 minutes — Croatia with a Spain own goal, Switzerland via the head of 41-year-old (!) Haris Seferovic — the favorites then scored the next three to take a 3-1 lead by the 75th minute, before giving up two goals including a second for Seferovic and an equalizer in added-on time to force extra-time.
(That of course glosses over the part where Switzerland failed to convert a penalty to go up 2-0, then conceded twice not five minutes later to completely flip the script of the game in the second half. And it also doesn’t mention Paul Pogba’s ridiculous goal, or Karim Benzema’s ridiculous touch, or many other ridiculous things that happened...)
This same guy at 87mins and 91 mins is just the best. pic.twitter.com/lDJ6XdZMbY— tim colman (@timolsky) June 28, 2021
Unlike Spain, France failed to score during bonus football — Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud, on as a sub for two-goal Karim Benzema, both wasting glorious chances — and so we got to witness a shootout as well, for the first time in the tournament.
Unsurprisingly, we needed all ten penalties to decide the outcome. Of all players, it was Mbappé who stepped up, after Switzerland scored all five of theirs, and failed to convert, thus eliminating the defending World Cup champions.
N’Golo Kanté played the full game of course, and did all the usual N’Golo Kanté things even deep into the extra periods. Giroud got 24 minutes while Kurt Zouma finishes the tournament without a single minute. Kanté’s Ballon d’Or credentials unfortunately take a solid hit as well.
So, at the end of what is quite likely the greatest night of international football, it’s Switzerland who advance and take on Spain in the quarterfinals on Friday. Wow!