It has to be said, this is probably the best European Championship that the football community has witnessed in a while. From red cards to own goals, comebacks and upsets, we have seen everything and more. It has been stunning and unpredictable. 

There are no underdogs in this competition. How else would you explain the current European and world champions being eliminated before the quarter-final? The team responsible for this upset? The king slayers, Switzerland. 

Switzerland have failed to qualify for just one major football tournament since 2004. They remain a strong side under manager Vladimir Petković who took over from Ottmar Hitzfeld in 2014 and has done a fantastic job so far with Die Nati. Having overseen 73 matches so far, the 57-year-old Bosnian-Swiss coach has led Switzerland to UEFA Euro 2016, the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and now Euro 2020. 

Having met high expectations, his mission now is to make a breakthrough with this side by reaching a quarter-final for the first time in the Nation’s history. A heavy task on his shoulders

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Euro 2020, The Tournament of King Slayers

“We don’t need to be scared of anybody” declared a self-assured Vladimir Petković last December but after seeing who his team would face in their first knockout game, surely a hint of fear would have surfaced, wouldn’t it? 

The current world champions and tournament favorites France. A squad filled with experience, talent, and depth. 

For 81 minutes in the tie, they felt the job had been done as they led 1-3. Who would have thought the Swiss had an ace up their sleeves. Petkovic’s team pulled off an extraordinary comeback scoring two goals in ten minutes to send the tie into extra time. 

The goals came from Haris Seferović and Mario Gavranović late on in the game as they dragged the world champions into extra time and eventual penalties. When it gets to penalties, nothing is ever assured. It requires self-confidence and nerves of steel to pull through. Much to Karim Benzema’s disappointment, his efforts to push his team through were undone. 

Kylian Mbappe had his penalty saved by Yan Sommer to send Les Bleus home, and for the first time in 67 years, the Swiss went through to the quarterfinals. 

What’s Next

Vladimir Petkovic Switzerland
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA – JUNE 28: Switzerland Head Coach Vladimir Petkovic (C) talks to Manuel Akanji of Switzerland (L) during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between France and Switzerland at National Arena on June 28, 2021 in Bucharest, Romania. (Photo by Marcio Machado/Getty Images)

The primary objective of breaking the barrier and making the quarter-final may have been completed for Petkovic and his Swiss army, but after beating the world champions, this team can dream of going all the way. Big ask but the team must be brimming with confidence after doing the unthinkable. 

Spain faced a Croatia team who, Like Switzerland, refused to lie down but ultimately bowed to superiority. Zlatko Dalic’s team pulled off a comeback to drag the Spaniards into extra time, but unlike France, La Roja were able to weather the storm as goals from Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyerzabal killed the tie in extra time and Spain won 3-5. 

One thing we have learned from this thrilling and affable competition is that there are no underdogs. Every team will give blood, sweat, and tears (see Denmark). They will fight till the very end to go through. 

The Swiss are heading into the quarter-final tie with Spain once again as the underdogs but eyes will be on them to see if they can cause yet another major upset in this already tantalizing competition.

Having famously defeated Spain 1-0 in the opening game of that era-defining World Cup campaign in 2010, Can lightning strike twice? We will see on Friday evening. 


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