I’m glad Spain defeated Switzerland in the Euro 2020 quarterfinals. If the Swiss had won on Friday, that would have been their second win in a penalty shootout. I didn’t want that. Agreed, they are called tie-breakers for a reason. But to win every game on penalties is something I absolutely detest.
My strident defence of the Spanish victory didn’t go down well with my Footie group. I was accused of belittling the valiant Swiss. The red card for Remo Freuler was a howler, one said. And my love for Barcelona was touted as the reason for backing Spain.
None of that is correct. The only grain of truth is that I support Barcelona, but that has nothing to do with the Spanish national team. I don’t think they are a strong side, and I believe Luis Enrique (a former Barcelona coach) made a mistake in leaving out Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, who could have provided the steel in the Spanish defence.
As for the Freuler red card, the opinion is split even among experts. And I’m no expert. To me, it looked like a studs-on challenge. Even if it wasn’t, the referee’s ruling, endorsed by VAR, cannot be reversed. So get on with the game rather than seek excuses. It doesn’t help, except to prolong the banter.
What’s clear to me is that everyone loves a fairytale. A giant-slaying act. The Swiss humbled mighty France in the round of 16 on penalties. Another win looked likely when the game against Spain extended to the shootout. It would well have been a sequel to the fairytale.
Here’s where I disagree. I’m not too fond of all fairytales in football. I hated Greece’s Euro win in 2004: they parked the bus and caught the rivals off-guard with counter-attacks. It was revolting for me. It certainly was one of the worst football tournaments for me. The only Euro fairytale I loved was Denmark’s in 1992 when they went on to win the title despite not qualifying for the tournament. They were drafted in as a last-minute replacement for Yugoslavia, who were excluded over the war in the Balkans.
The Swiss ride in Euro 2020 started to look like a fairytale on penalties. And I didn’t like it. True, they are a bunch of fighters. You can’t take that away from them. You got to love their spirit. A victory in the shootout against Spain would have been injustice; that’s what I thought. Because Spain dominated much of the match, and the Swiss survived merely on the heroics of goalkeeper Yann Sommer.
I was glad Sommer’s brilliant form didn’t spill into the shootout. He reminded me of Sergio Goycochea, the goalkeeper who saved penalties in the quarterfinals and semifinals to carry Argentina into the 1990 World Cup finals. His luck ran out when Andreas Brehme curled a penalty kick past him in regulation time to script a win for Germany. That was one World Cup I loathed for the lack of brilliance.
Luckily for me, Sommer turned out to be no Goycochea. Which meant Spain won. Shootouts are no fun. Agreed, it is necessary to find a winner after 120 minutes of stalemate. But I just don’t want to see that in every match.
Will Spain win the semifinal? Certainly not. This is one of the weakest Spanish teams I’ve seen. With such a fragile defence, they could well be routed by Italy, who are in splendid form.
So a Spain win wasn’t the point; it’s just that I didn’t want a Swiss win. Fairytales are best reserved for storybooks.