Switzerland 1-1 Poland (4-5 pens)
Poland beat Switzerland 5-4 on penalties to become the first side to book their place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016. The two sides could not be split inside 120 minutes, after Xherdan Shaqiri cancelled out Jakub Blaszczykowski with a late wonder strike, and it was left for Grzegorz Krychowiak to net the winning penalty in Saint-Etienne after Arsenal new boy Granit Xhaka blasted wide.
Poland – who reach the last eight of a major tournament for the first time since the 1982 World Cup – led for much of the first half after netting just before the break, but Switzerland levelled things up in the 82nd minute when Stoke star Shaqiri produced a real contender for goal of the tournament. The eventual winners should have been ahead inside 30 seconds after a terrible mix-up in the Switzerland back-line. Yann Sommer opted to throw the ball short to Johan Djourou, but the former Arsenal defender’s attempted back-pass was lacklustre.
Lurking was Robert Lewandowski to nip in, but Sommer reacted quick enough to block the initial effort. The ball squirmed across to Arkadiusz Milik, who could only lash his shot over the bar with the whole goal to aim at. In truth, it was all Poland in the opening 20 minutes as Switzerland struggled to get out of their own half. Milik had the first on-target shot of the tie when he aimed a free header straight at Sommer from the back post, and Lewandowski could have scored when he blasted over on 19 minutes. Switzerland grew into the game and should have had a goal themselves when centre-back Fabian Schar found himself free at a corner. The ball was whipped in towards the back post, but the Hoffenheim man could only direct his effort into the ground. It bounced up and Lukasz Fabianski looked delighted to claim it for Poland.
Against the run of play – but probably deserved on the overall balance of the first half – it was Poland who took the lead six minutes before the break. Fabianski threw to Kamil Grosicki to begin a quick attack down the left flank, and the Poland No 11 charged into opposition territory. The Rennes forward was only playing due to the suspension of Bartosz Kapustka, but he took his opportunity well in Saint-Etienne. There was a touch of fortune as he bounced and bundled his way through the defence, watching the ball clatter off a defender only to fall straight back to his feet. As the attack built in pressure, Blaszczykowski had engineered some space at the back post and was screaming for the ball. Grosicki found him, via a dummy from Milik in the centre. One touch got the ball under control, before Blaszczykowski slotted underneath Sommer to send the Poland fans into raptures. It was nothing less than they deserved.
In the second half, Switzerland were a different side, working hard to engineer a number of chances to level things up. Shaqiri had the first, his powerful effort beaten away by Fabianski in the Poland goal. Switzerland were then lucky to keep 11 men on the field when Fabian Schar was booked for a foul on Robert Lewandowski. The tackle was late, two-footed and reckless, but referee Mark Clattenburg only brandished a yellow card. Breel Embolo came on for the Swiss in the second half, and he was central to many of their attacking moves in the latter stages. They were almost level on 79, when the out-of-sorts Haris Seferovic cannoned an effort off the bar. Embolo had the initial shot blocked away, before the ball dropped to their main striker, but he couldn’t quite keep it on target. In the end it didn’t matter, as the goal they were looking for came just three minutes later. And what a goal it was. The move was started by captain Stephan Lichtsteiner, crossing from the left.His ball in was half-cleared by Pazdan, but it sat up perfectly for Shaqiri to strike. With the ball dropping over his shoulder he jumped high, twisting in the air to produce a scissor-kick in incredible fashion. Fabianski dived desperately, but he could get nowhere near.
As the final whistle blew, most in attendance were of the view that a draw was a fair result. Both had spells of possession and deserved to score… but they could not be split. The 30 minutes of extra time were patient and, at times, lacklustre. Both sides were clearly worried about making a mistake, and instead opted to keep it tight in defence. Switzerland came closest right at the death through substitute Eren Deriyok, but eventually the tie went to penalties. A cruel way for anyone to exit, of course, and it was Poland’s afternoon. Lichtsteiner and Lewandowski powered their penalties home, before new Arsenal signing Xhaka was the first to flinch, firing wide of the upright.
Everyone else netted theirs, meaning it came down to Krychowiak to win it for Poland with the fifth spot-kick. A leader on the pitch for the entire game, the Polish No 10 stepped up and made no mistake, finding the top corner with ease.
Poland are the first side to move to the quarter-final – in fact, it’s the first time they’ve ever reached this stage of a European Championship – and they will face either Portugal or Croatia in the next round.
Man of the Match – Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)
- Breel Embolo replaces Blerim Dzemaili 58 mins
- Eren Derdiyok replaces Admir Mehmedi 70 mins
- Gelson Fernandes replaces Valon Behrami 77 mins
- Tomasz Jodlowiec replaces Krzysztof Maczynski 101 mins
- Slawomir Peszko replaces Kamil Grosicki 104 mins
Switzerland – Fabian Schaer,Johan Djourou.
Poland – Artur Jedrzejczyk,Michal Pazdan.
Switzerland – Stephan Lichtsteiner,Granit Xhaka,Xherdan Shaqiri,Fabian Schaer,Ricardo Rodriguez.
Poland – Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik,Kamil Glik,Jakub Blaszczykowski,Grzegorz Krychowiak.