Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Exhaustion from so much excitement!

The two last-16 matches in the European Championship today were two incredible matches that left me exhausted after such rides of drama, goals and emotion! But this is truly what football is all about!

Spain had to fight unusually hard to defeat Croatia in what frankly should have been a relatively easy game for Spain against a Croatian side that still wins morally by the mere fact of their never-ending fight. Unai Simon's own goal was the single most comical moment of the entire tournament (and congratulations to the goalkeeper for rising up to the challenge and having some great saves afterwards), and put Croatia ahead when everyone was expecting Spain to score the first goal. That said, when the Spaniards finally managed to score by Pablo Sarabia, they were in complete control, and we all thought that the match was over after Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres made it 2-1 and 3-1 respectively.

But Croatia never gives up, and they managed to score two late goals by Mislav Orsic and Mario Pasalic to take the game into extra time.

In extra time, after Alvaro Morata made it 4-3 for Spain following some dreadful Croatian marking, the game was nevertheless over, and when Mikel Oyarzabal made it 5-3, the tired but brave Croatian had little energy left to mount a comeback.

Spain are in the quarterfinals, and very likely semifinalists, as Switzerland, whom they will face (and probably defeat) in the quarterfinals did them the favour of eliminating France in another exciting match.

Switzerland took an early lead by Haris Seferovic, the Benfica  striker, and they took their lead to halftime. France mounted a feeble pressure early in the second half, until Switzerland were given a penalty, that could have given them a decisive lead, but Hugo Lloris saved Ricardo Rodriguez penalty kick. After that France were like another team, and Karim Benzema put them ahead with two quick goals, before Paul Pogba made it 3-1 on a spectacular strike.

By this time France were in total control, and it seemed unlikely that the Swiss could make a comeback, but alas, they did: Seferovic made it 3-2 on another header where the French central defenders (Rafael Varane and Clement Leglet) looked very poor, and in the dying second Mario Gavranovic made it 3-3 on an excellent strike that also exposed a slow French central defense.

The French appeared defeated even when they were up 3-2, and despite some chances in extra time we all had the feeling that the Swiss would pull the surprise in penalty kicks (and the Swiss seemed very happy when it went to penalty kicks). There were some great kicks by both sides until it came down to the last kicker: Kylian Mbappe, who had played a very poor match to say the least, and the youngster crowned it by having his penalty saved by Yann Sommer, and putting Switzerland in the quarterfinals.

Kylian Mbappe is only 23, and I hope he can overcome this. That will define him as a great player, or merely another good youngster.

The World Champions are out, and Switzerland have made it further that even they had dared dream (and in all likelihood as far as they will make it).

No comments: