Sweden calmly remove Switzerland with Forsberg’s fortunate strike

There was less than a minute remaining in the round of 16 clash between Sweden and Switzerland when Isaac Kiese Thelin received the ball in the centre of the field. Sweden led courtesy of Emil Forsberg’s slightly fortunate opener, and they had found an opening as the Swiss desperately committed men forward to their last ditch attack. Kiese Thelin played the ball into space, where Martin Olsson was running onto the ball at speed. There seemed to be no way to deny the onrushing Swedish left-back. Then Michael Lang entered the scene. The Swiss right-back, deputising for suspended captain Stephan Lichtsteiner, was quicker than Olsson, and he was breathing down his neck as the Swede reached the edge of the box. Lang gave him a push. It was subtle, but it was enough to send Olsson toppling to the ground, and enough to convince Damir Skomina to award a penalty and expel Lang for the foul. Lang left without complaint, and he was already off the field when the video assistant referee decided that the foul had actually been committed outside the box. Yann Sommer saved the resultant free-kick, but it was little consolation for the Swiss.

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Martin Olsson (right) is brought down on the edge of the box by Michael Lang. Lang was sent off for the challenge, but his expulsion had no impact on the outcome of the match.

The opening exchanges weren’t exactly filled to the brim with goalmouth action. Sweden had some early chances, mostly coming as a result of Swiss turnovers coming out of defence, but none of them really tested Sommer. When Switzerland settled, they began to control the ball and Sweden began to sit back and watch as their opponents played the ball around harmlessly. Occasionally Xherdan Shaqiri or Lang would slip in a dangerous ball, and occasionally Blerim Džemaili would squander a brilliant chance, but otherwise the Swiss posed little threat. The Swedish, despite conceding the lion’s share of possession, had the better chances in a generally slow first half. Albin Ekdal missed a couple of shots, most notably a close-range volley which should have been put away. Marcus Berg made his presence felt in attack, but he couldn’t quite combine his excellent positioning with the finishing touch required. Through all of it, Sommer’s nice diving save to turn away Berg’s dangerous volley was the only real save either goalkeeper had to make in the first 45 minutes.

The second 45 started similarly to the first, and it seemed like more of the same was imminent. Switzerland continued to look in control, even taking four corner kicks in a row early in the half, but they still couldn’t find a way through Sweden’s very well drilled defensive unit. They tried crosses, but most of them didn’t even reach the middle, let alone their intended target. Sweden’s direct, counter-attacking style looked more effective than Switzerland’s attempts at slow build-up play with their best finishers isolated in non-dangerous positions, but it wasn’t like Sweden’s counter-attacks were really worrying their opposition. Then they went ahead.

Forsberg, Sweden’s previously underperforming star, was the man who finally broke a deadlock which had lasted for over an hour and was threatening to carry on past the standard 90 minutes. The Swedish attacked the Swiss with a bit of urgency, and they managed to reach the edge of the area with the defence slightly out of position. That was enough for Forsberg. He received the ball from Ola Toivonen just outside the box, and he proceeded to take a touch before firing a shot at the Swiss goal. Between the posts, Sommer sunk into a low crouch, ready to make the save that seemed to be coming. The ball was headed straight to the ever-alert Swiss goalkeeper. It never reached him. Instead, it flew into the top corner, courtesy of Manuel Akanji’s incautiously outstretched leg. The ball hit the defender’s foot and took off, leaving Sommer with no time to react and no hope of making the save.

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Emil Forsberg (right) gets in the way of Breel Embolo’s header as Robin Olsen watches on. The slightly threatening corner was one of Switzerland’s only real chances as they looked to equalise.

Switzerland put some dangerous balls in. They tested Robin Olsen from range on a couple of occasions. They had corners, lots of corners. Nothing came of them, save for one threatening clearance which was cleared by Forsberg and Andreas Granqvist. Breel Embolo made an impact, but he could do no more than threaten to threaten. Ricardo Rodríguez put in plenty of crosses, both from set pieces and in open play, but none of them really tested the Swedish defence, and none of them provided Olsen with anything to do. Shaqiri’s crosses were even less dangerous. Attackers were thrown into the box, but Switzerland’s lack of a good finisher rather undermined their attempts to breach the Swedish defence through their numbers in the box. One of Rodríguez’s crosses finally found its mark shortly before the last act of Switzerland’s tournament ended in Lang’s expulsion. Haris Seferović actually got the header on target, but Olsen made the save and it came to nothing. Ultimately, Switzerland were just too short on talent in the final third, and they paid a heavy price.

Saint Petersburg – Krestovsky Stadium
Sweden 1 (Forsberg 66)
Switzerland 0
Referee: Damir Skomina (Svn)
Sweden (4-4-2): Olsen – Lustig (Krafth 82), Lindelöf, Granqvist, Augustinsson; Claesson, Svensson, Ekdal, Forsberg (Olsson 82); Toivonen, Berg (Kiese Thelin 90).
Switzerland (4-2-3-1): Sommer – Lang, Djourou, Akanji, Rodríguez; Behrami, Xhaka; Shaqiri, Džemaili (Seferović 73), Zuber (Embolo 73); Drmić.
Sent-off: Lang 90+4

Top 5
1. Emil Forsberg (Sweden)
Forsberg finally found some of his best form just when Sweden needed it, and his goal, while lucky, was a fitting reward for a strong performance. He looked threatening when he received the ball in the attacking third, and he made good things happen. It bodes well for Sweden’s quarter-final clash.
2. Ricardo Rodríguez (Switzerland)
Rodríguez was involved in most of Switzerland’s attacking play, and there was little wrong with his deliveries into the box. He put in plenty of crosses overlapping from the left side of defence, but he was never found wanting despite his aggressive forward play. With some quality players in the middle he could have easily picked up a few assists.
3. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden)
Granqvist has been a dominant force in Sweden’s penalty area throughout this tournament, and he saw them through to the quarter-finals with another big effort in the heart of the defence. He is seemingly never beaten in the air, and he just continues to hold the fort for his side.
4. Marcus Berg (Sweden)
Berg worked into plenty of good spots, but once again he left goalless after a series of saves and misses conspired to thwart him for the fourth match in succession. He has specialised in making a nuisance of himself at this tournament, and he was always heavily involved in Sweden’s attack.
5. Manuel Akanji (Switzerland)
Akanji is so composed that it’s hard to believe he has just 11 international caps to his name. He has slotted into the Swiss defence effortlessly at this tournament, and he didn’t miss a beat here despite losing his group stage partner, Fabian Schär, to suspension. He is a massive talent, and seems to have a big future ahead of him.

Poland hold nerve in shootout after Shaqiri stunner

A masterful performance from Xherdan Shaqiri was not enough for Switzerland as they dropped out of Euro 2016 after losing to Poland on penalties in Saint-Etienne. The Polish looked headed for a certain victory, but Shaqiri scored the best goal of the tournament so far to grab a late equaliser. Extra time was inevitable, and after 30 added minutes the game was decided by penalties. Granit Xhaka’s horrendous miss proved costly as Poland held their nerve to win 5-4 on penalties, with Grzegorz Krychowiak netting the winner.

The game started poorly for the Swiss, and Arkadiusz Milik should have scored in the first minute when Johan Djourou’s weak back pass was nearly intercepted by Robert Lewandowski. Yann Sommer slid in to clear the ball, but he found Milik who missed with no goalkeeper to beat. Milik had another chance with a header moments later, but his attempt was saved by Sommer. After a nervy start the Swiss managed to find their way into the game thanks to Shaqiri, who had been given positional freedom and was roaming around wherever he thought he could create the most trouble for Poland. The game was an arm wrestle, with both teams playing well and neither side looking like breaking the deadlock despite the openness of the game. Great chances went begging for the Polish, with Krychowiak, Kamil Grosicki and Milik all missing the target after finding themselves in quality scoring positions. Fabian Schar had a chance with a header for the Swiss, but it was aimed straight at Lukasz Fabianski and was comfortably gathered.

Then came the goal. It came on the break after Fabianski had to make an excellent save to deny Blerim Dzemaili, whose shot took a deflection from Michal Pazdan on the way through. The resultant corner saw Djourou get an opportunity with a header from the back post, but Fabianski was able to take it. Then Poland broke. Fabianski threw the ball a long way to find Grosicki, who did not have many markers to deal with but did not have support either. Grosicki had played a great game, and Valon Behrami was paralysed as the Polish winger ran towards him. Grosicki drove him into the box, and then kicked it at his feet. The ball bounced off Behrami, and Grosicki drew two more defenders when he collected it again. Milik was lined up against Ricardo Rodriguez, and he let Grosicki’s cross fly over the back to Jakub Blaszczykowski, who had no marker. Sommer was in position, but the ball went through his legs and into the back of the net.

The first half ended rather uneventfully, but the Swiss sprang to life after the break. Shaqiri found space behind Poland’s defence less than a minute after the interval, but his pass back inside couldn’t find a teammate. Shaqiri had an attempt from range, but Fabianski was there. Switzerland were on top, but Poland could still find chances on the counter-attack. Sommer had to make an excellent save to deny Blaszczykowski, and Poland still looked a threat when they spread forward quickly. The Swiss could get the ball into plenty of dangerous positions, but Fabianski and his defence were up to the test. Rodriguez came close when he curled his free kick into the top corner, but Fabianski was able to react quickly to tap the ball away. Djourou had his shot blocked, and Haris Seferovic should have scored when the follow up came to him. He hit the bar.

Then came Shaqiri’s goal. Stephan Lichtsteiner had the ball on the left, and he put in a cross towards Seferovic. The striker flicked it back for Eren Derdiyok, who chested it out towards the edge of the penalty area. Shaqiri ran after it, and put a perfect bicycle kick into the bottom corner. Fabianski didn’t have a chance as the ball hit the post and bounced in. It was an incredible goal, and it was well-deserved after a supreme performance. Even still, the job wasn’t done yet. Switzerland had the momentum, and they kept pushing. They worked hard until the end of normal time, but they couldn’t win it. Shaqiri created some great chances in extra time, but they couldn’t win it. It was down to spot kicks.

Lichtsteiner scored, and so did Lewandowski. Then Granit Xhaka stepped up. The new Arsenal recruit stepped back, and with his left foot he blasted it wide. Fabianski was in the other corner, and would not have had a chance had Xhaka hit the target. He didn’t, and Poland slotted penalty after penalty past Sommer to win it, Krychowiak putting the winner into the top corner.

Saint-Etienne – Stade Geoffroy-Guichard
Switzerland 1 (Shaqiri 82)
Poland 1 (Blaszczykowski 39) (a.e.t., Poland won 5-4 on penalties)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Eng)

Switzerland (4-2-3-1): Sommer – Lichtsteiner, Schar, Djourou, Rodriguez; Behrami (Fernandes 77), Xhaka; Shaqiri, Dzemaili (Embolo 58), Mehmedi (Derdiyok 70); Seferovic.
Poland (4-4-2): Fabianski – Piszczek, Glik, Pazdan, Jedrzejczyk; Blaszczykowski, Krychowiak, Maczynski (Jodlowiec 101), Grosicki (Peszko 104); Milik, Lewandowski.

Top 5
1. Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)
Shaqiri was at the top of his game, playing with plenty of freedom and causing huge issues for the Polish defence. His goal was the best this tournament has seen so far, and it was a fitting reward for what was a masterful performance. He showed all of his skill and class, and he was the main reason Switzerland were able to take the game to penalties.
2. Kamil Grosicki (Poland)
Grosicki was the best player on the field in the first half, and he was able to create plenty of chances for the Polish strikers. He set up Blaszczykowski for Poland’s only goal, and his ability to put in precise crosses from the left wing created big issues for the Swiss centre backs. He didn’t have as much of the ball in the second half, but he had a good game and is in good touch.
3. Ricardo Rodriguez (Switzerland)
Rodriguez was fairly solid at left back, and while it was his man who scored for Poland the goal was as a result of an undermanned defence rather than any mistakes. His work in the second half with the game on the line was brilliant, and he should have scored with a well-placed free kick which would have found the top corner but for a brilliant save.
4. Lukasz Fabianski (Poland)
Fabianski had a great game in goal, making some excellent saves and coming off his line well to claim the ball on multiple occasions. He did concede to an incredible goal from Shaqiri, but he was solid and mostly withstood the Swiss barrage in the second half. He had a good game and he was one of the key reasons for Poland’s success.
5. Michal Pazdan (Poland)
Pazdan was solid as ever at the heart of the Polish defence, and he constantly denied the Swiss as they looked to level in the second half. He was able to intercept plenty of Swiss crosses before they found the target, and his tackling was excellent in spite of a booking picked up in extra time. He played well and should continue to be a rock in the Polish defence for the rest of the tournament.