Arrogant France Knocked Out of Euro 2020
Though conceded first, France rallied back and led 3-1 until nine minutes to end the round of 16 match against Switzerland last night in Bucharest, Hungary, the world champions lost.
The same arrogance that made the Netherlands to lose to less fanciful Czech Republic 2-0 after gaining 100 per cent record in the group stage and their opponents qualified as one of the best losers.
Even Italy with another perfect group stage record huffed and puffed against Austria.
In the final analysis, Switzerland wanted it more. You could see it before the penalty shoot-out as captained fantastic Granit Xhaka rallied the troops with war cry.
On the opposite side, a shell-shocked France just lumbered together. It was then fitting that the Swiss scored all their five penalties after the game ended 3-3 while Kylian Mbappe, most likely thinking of things outside the tournament, got his final and decisive kick saved by Yann Sommer. The Frenchman had been wayward all day.
Former midfielder Patrtick Vieira was scathing in his criticism of his former side.
‘Tonight we have to give the credit to the Swiss team, because I strongly believe that the best team won today,’ Vieira said on ITV.
‘The best team deserved to go through to the next round, and tonight it was the Swiss.
‘I’m really disappointed with the attitude we had on the pitch. I think it was a poor French national team, there wasn’t any kind of togetherness, there wasn’t any kind of spirit. We didn’t play as a team, so we didn’t deserve to go to the next round.
‘I think at times we played well, because of the individual quality of the players making a difference, but collectively we were far behind the Swiss.’
Vieria’s former international team-mate Bixente Lizarazu, who won the Euros in 2000 with the national side, agreed that France under-performed and deserved to go out on balance.
He added: ‘We didn’t dominate this game. We totally missed the first half. It was better in the second with Benzema, Mbappe and Griezmann. Credit to the Swiss players, who showed so much mental strength. They remained true to their style.’
Spain Dug In
A similar drama played out in the first match in Budapest as Croatia came from 3-1 down to hold Spain and earn an extra time. And then crumbled to two superb Spanish goals, one of them by Alvaro Morata, who had received death threats fro missing open goals.
Spain won 5-3 to advance to the quarter-finals.
England Germany Renew Rivalry
It is a win or bust for England as they take on perennial foes Germany at Wembley tonight. History does not favour England and home advantage may not count.
When England last played at home in a tournament, Gareth Southgate was the Euro 96 fall guy as he missed a crucial penalty in the semi-final shoot-out defeat.
There was also a heavy defeat at the 2010 World Cup yet Southgate, aware of the debilitating weight of that history, insists the tie is not a chance to exorcise the ghosts of past England failures.
Instead, he believe it is a chance for his players to add a memorable new chapter to their personal stories.
“This team, I’ve said for a long time, have had so many unique achievements and my focus is on this team and helping them to succeed,” Southgate said.
“This is about our players. This is their moment and it’s their opportunity.”
Asked if perhaps his Euro 96 pain would give his players extra motivation to win it for him, Southgate said: “Good grief, no. I don’t think we’ll be relying on that!
“So, no, this is about them. This is about them having a chance to achieve something, and certainly not for me to take any shine off of that.”
England have never won the European Championship and a victory against Germany would be only their second knockout stage win in the history of the competition.
In contrast, Germany have been crowned kings of Europe three times, with the most recent success coming in 1996.
However, Germany travelled to London in the unusual position of fearing defeat against England.
Joachim Loew’s team stumbled into the last 16 after rescuing a 2-2 draw against Hungary in their final group game.
Germany are not the intimidating force of old and, with Loew stepping down at the end of the tournament, a defeat would signal the end of an era.
Despite winning the World Cup in 2014, Loew has been criticised for his role in a humiliating group-stage exit from the 2018 World Cup and a series of poor results before the Euro.
“All in all, I thought about it for two seconds,” said Loew ahead of potentially his last game.
“This is my passion. My whole focus is on the match and I hope we will succeed.”
England will have the vast majority of a 40,000 crowd on their side at Wembley and Loew expects a spine-tingling encounter.
“This is a match which electrifies everybody. For both teams, it’s in or out, it’s now or never, the loser goes home,” he said.
The winner will face a quarter-final in Rome against the winner of Tuesday’s late tie between Sweden and Ukraine, which will be played in Glasgow.
Sweden vs Ukraine
The last round of 16 match is between Sweden and Ukraine with the quarter-finals line up taking shape