• Monday, July 22, 2024
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Euro 2024: Switzerland stun Italy 2-0 to reach quarter-finals

Ruben Vargas

Switzerland eliminated reigning champions Italy from the Euro 2024 with a stunning 2-0 victory at the Olympiastadion stadium on Saturday to advance to the quarterfinals for the second time in their history.

Murat Yakin’s well-drilled side outplayed the two-time winners in the last-16 clash in Berlin and will face either England or Slovakia in the next round. Ruben Vargas set up Remo Freuler for Switzerland’s 37th-minute opener before curling home superbly himself right at the start of the second half to deservedly double their lead.

Italy coach Luciano Spalletti made six changes to the starting lineup, searching for a spark, but Switzerland were the better side from the outset. Breel Embolo came close to breaking the deadlock even before Freuler’s opener.

A new-look Italy, short on star power and missing many key figures from their Euro 2020 triumph, offered little in response to Switzerland’s energetic display. Former Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka, coming off a stellar season with German champions Bayer Leverkusen, controlled the midfield as the Swiss rarely looked like losing their lead.

Spalletti dropped Jorginho after his lacklustre group stage performances, bringing in Nicolo Fagioli in defensive midfield among the six changes. The 23-year-old started a major tournament match for the first time, having missed most of the season with Juventus due to a seven-month ban for gambling on football matches.

Italy barely scraped through the group stage thanks to Mattia Zaccagni’s last-gasp strike in the 1-1 draw with Croatia. Spalletti emphasized the need for improvement in the knockout rounds, but it was Switzerland who grew in confidence, delivering their best performance yet at the Olympiastadion in a sweltering Berlin, where Italy had won the 2006 World Cup.

Former goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, now Italy’s delegation head, shared stories from that triumph with the squad, but it did not inspire a convincing performance—apart from Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper, key in Italy’s Euro 2020 victory, made a fine save to deny Breel Embolo midway through the first half as Switzerland created the first real chance by playing him through.