After two engrossing games on Friday, we have our first Euro 2020 semi-finalists.

Spain ended a nine-year wait for a place in the final four of a major tournament, but they had to do it the hard way once again, with penalties needed to defeat Switzerland after a draw in Saint Petersburg.

Then came arguably the finest match of the tournament to date, Italy prevailing against Belgium to set a new record for consecutive wins in this competition and continue their remarkable form under Roberto Mancini.

Here are some of the key data takeaways from day one of the quarter-finals...

 

Switzerland 1-1 Spain (aet, 1-3 pens): Luis Enrique's men are the Euros shoot-out kings

Switzerland's previous three European Championship knockout games had gone to penalties (against Poland in 2016 and France this year), so perhaps we should have expected another shoot-out here.

Things certainly looked to be under Spain's control when Denis Zakaria, in for the suspended Granit Xhaka, scored the 10th own goal of Euro 2020 – that's more than were seen in the previous 15 championships combined (nine). Three of those have now gone in Spain's favour: they got two against Slovakia in the group stage.

Xherdan Shaqiri steered in Remo Freuler's pass to become his country's leading Euros goalscorer with four – he has as many goals (three) in his most recent three games as he did in his previous 31 – as Switzerland responded well in the second half. Then came a crucial moment: a heavy challenge from Freuler, and a red card flashed his way. It made the Atalanta midfielder the sixth person to be sent off at these finals and Switzerland only the third side in the competition's history to score an own goal and have a player dismissed in the same game, after Poland (against Slovakia this year) and Czechoslovakia against the Netherlands in 1976.

Still, Switzerland stood firm. Yann Sommer produced 10 saves, the most by a goalkeeper in a knockout match who did not suffer defeat during normal or extra time since Ivo Viktor for Czechoslovakia, again in 1976. Spain fired in 28 shots in total, with substitutes Dani Olmo and Gerard Moreno attempting six each. They have struck the most shots of anyone at these finals without scoring (Olmo 16, Gerard 15).

Yet Sommer's heroics were not enough in the shoot-out, Ruben Vargas' miss allowing Mikel Oyarzabal to ensure Spain progressed from penalties in a Euros match for the fourth time, more than any other nation. One of those came against Italy in 2008, and another against Portugal in 2012 – each time, La Roja went on to lift the trophy...


 

Belgium 1-2 Italy: Azzurri clinch Euros record against favourite foes

Italy stretched their record unbeaten run to 32 matches and 13 consecutive victories to see off Belgium and reach the semi-finals of a major tournament for the 12th time, a tally only bettered among European sides by Germany (20).

Perhaps more impressively, Italy have now won each of their past 15 games at the Euros (including qualifying), which is a competition record. Had Belgium claimed victory, they would have reached that tally themselves.

Roberto Martinez's side might be the top-ranked in the world, but they have now faced the Azzurri five times at the Euros and World Cup without winning, more than they have against any other side. They may have feared this result was coming.

Nicolo Barella opened the scoring with his sixth goal in 27 international games – only one fewer than he has managed in his past 116 club matches – before Lorenzo Insigne swept home a quite stunning second. Romelu Lukaku got a goal back after the impressive Jeremy Doku had become the first teenager to win a Euros spot-kick since Wayne Rooney in 2004.

Lukaku had a couple of chances for another in the second half, but he could not quite muster what would have been a 23rd goal in his most recent 19 competitive internationals, as Roberto Mancini celebrated becoming just the second coach in Euros history to win each of his first five games in the finals after Michel Hidalgo in 1984.

Italy's resolute defending in the second half was built on the partnership of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, whose guile helped the Azzurri over the line. This was something of a showcase for experienced stoppers: the five starting centre-backs – Chiellini (36), Bonucci (34), Thomas Vermaelen (35), Jan Vertonghen (34) and Toby Alderweireld (32) – averaged an age of 34 years and 234 days.

 

Luis Enrique said it was a good thing Gerard Moreno missed a string of chances in Spain's victory against Switzerland rather than Alvaro Morata following the recent criticism aimed at the Juventus striker.

Three-time European champions Spain booked their place in the semi-finals of Euro 2020 on Friday with a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over 10-man Switzerland.

La Roja, who needed extra time to overcome Croatia in the last 16, were pegged back by a Xherdan Shaqiri strike in St Petersburg after Denis Zakaria's own goal had put them in front.

Even after Remo Freuler's dismissal with 77 minutes played, Luis Enrique's men could not find a way through due to a mixture of profligacy and a number of Yann Sommer saves – a tournament-high 10 in total.

Gerard replaced Morata and endured a tough time of it, the Villarreal striker missing a number of good opportunities to win the tie for Spain before penalties were required.

He managed six shots, half of those on target, while his expected goals (xG) return of 3.3 for the tournament so far is the highest of any player yet to score at Euro 2020.

Morata revealed last week he and his family had been subjected to abuse by Spain fans, and Luis Enrique is glad the striker was not the recipient of any more criticism on Friday.

"Luckily it was Gerard Moreno who failed to take the chances. If Morata misses them, you impale him," the Spain head coach said after the quarter-final win.

"It's quite evident what Morata has experienced and what Gerard has experienced. They are both my players and I love them very much."

 

Spain are the sixth team to progress from two separate knockout games of a single European Championship tournament that went to extra time or beyond, all five previous sides going on to lift the trophy.

They were on the back foot when Sergio Busquets missed the first spot-kick, but Fabian Schar, Manuel Akanji and Ruben Vargas all failed to find the net for Switzerland.

Asked if he felt nervous watching the shoot-out, Luis Enrique said: "It was a tranquil moment for me because we'd already worked on everything. Nothing else could be done.

"Win or lose on penalties, the team would have done excellently for my judgement. For how they've handled this, how they've played, how they've represented Spain.

"We are so proud. It'd be ridiculous to think that we, or any of the semi-finalists, would settle for just getting that far now – all of us want to get to the final and win.

"I've said from the outset that we are one of the seven or eight teams which, no exaggeration, could win this trophy – now we're one of four."

Switzerland knocked out competition favourites France on penalties in the last round following an incredible 3-3 draw, but they ultimately could not do likewise against Spain.

It is the fourth time the Swiss have been eliminated from a major tournament at the last-eight stage, with each of those previous occasions coming in the World Cup.

"I have mixed feelings," said head coach Vladimir Petkovic after the game. "I have pride – we can all be so proud. We leave here with our heads held high. 

"On the other hand, we were so close to the semi-final, and that doesn't happen often. I have more positive than negative feelings.

"Congratulations to Spain. They tried everything and in the end won on penalties. I am very proud of my team, and all the players.

"My players were the heroes of the night. We would have deserved to go to the semi-final."

After nine years, Spain are back in the semi-finals of a major tournament – and, boy, has it felt like hard work.

A group-stage slog, an extra-time thriller with Croatia and then this, a match against Switzerland that seemed under their control but still required 120 minutes of football and a penalty shoot-out to decide.

Yet here they are: exhausted, written off, but in with a shot of a third European Championship final out of the past four. The passing might not be as slick, the control not as imperious as it once was, but one thing Euro 2020 has given these players is belief. After this latest challenge posed by the Russian summer and the Swiss Sommer, it will only be stronger.

It seemed Spain had found the ideal antidote to any lingering fatigue from the last 16 once Jordi Alba's volley took a hearty deflection off the studs off Denis Zakaria and flew into the net, a stroke of misfortune for Granit Xhaka's replacement in midfield that meant Euro 2020 has seen more own goals (10) as the 15 previous editions combined (nine).

It also left Switzerland with a daunting task. Trailing 1-0 after eight minutes is not a great outlook against any team, but especially one that came into the quarter-finals with the highest average possession (73.4 per cent) and the joint-lowest number of shots faced (24). Getting the ball back is hard enough; getting a shot away is damnably difficult.

 

Yet Switzerland did. They ended the 90 minutes having managed eight attempts on Unai Simon's goal, as many as Croatia managed in that chaotic 5-3 defeat in the previous round. Two of those were on target, the same number as Spain managed; one ended up in the net, via the composed right foot of Xherdan Shaqiri. The Liverpool man has 51 direct goal involvements in 96 Switzerland matches, the team's hopes in major finals still carried on those spectacular shoulders.

If Vladimir Petkovic's side did not really deserve to be trailing on the scoresheet, they certainly didn't merit being a man down on the pitch. After 77 minutes, they were, Remo Freuler issued a straight red by Michael Oliver for a strong challenge on Gerard Moreno – strong, but not obviously reckless, or out of control, and one in which he cleanly won the ball. But red was the colour it remained, meaning the Atalanta midfielder became the first player at the Euros to assist a goal and be sent off in the same game since Nuno Gomes for Portugal 21 years ago.

It also meant, in extra time, Spain suddenly cut loose. They attempted 11 shots in the first period, one more than they managed in the whole of the first 90 minutes. Gerard Moreno smashed wide from five yards; Yann Sommer flew around the Switzerland goal as though his life depended on it. When it looked as though Gerard might finally best him, Ricardo Rodriguez hurled himself in the way, the block inspiring louder cheers from the Saint Petersburg crowd than perhaps any other moment.

It looked as though Sommer's save from Rodrigo in the shoot-out might have swung things Switzerland's way after Sergio Busquets had hit the post, but two Simon stops and Ruben Vargas' effort that flew into the stand gave Mikel Oyarzabal the chance to send Spain through. This time, the finish was clinical.

So Luis Enrique's men marched, or rather hobbled, into the semi-finals of the Euros for the first time since winning in 2012. Unfancied before the finals, uninspiring at the start of them, they are still here, still passing and, more than ever, still believing. Tougher footballing tests await but, physically and mentally, they have already gone through the wringer. You won't scare them now.

Spain will contest their first major tournament semi-final since 2012 despite failing to beat 10-man Switzerland after extra-time, with La Roja finally getting the job done on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Luis Enrique's men were dominant throughout and even had a man advantage throughout extra-time, and although their finishing left a lot to be desired, they proved more clinical from 12 yards than the Swiss.

It was a Switzerland player who provided the decisive touch to put Spain one up as Denis Zakaria scored an early own goal, but they capitalised on a defensive error to level through Xherdan Shaqiri in the second period.

Spain could not take advantage of Remo Freuler's contentious sending off, with Yann Sommer starring between the posts for Switzerland, but even he could not make up for his team's profligacy from the spot as Mikel Oyarzabal converted the winning kick.

Switzerland's remarkable run to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 has captivated fans at the grounds and at home.

Still, there is only one member of Vladimir Petkovic's squad who consistently has his own song belted out in stands and living rooms.

Striker Breel Embolo epitomises the 'golden generation' of Swiss players to have emerged in the last decade: talented, spirited, and with a story to tell. He is captivating as a player and person, so much so that his name is sung with gusto at every international match to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. "Oh Embolo, oh Embolo..."

There's no denying his popularity, but where Embolo has so far fallen short is in matching early expectations. He made his Basel debut in March 2014 and scored minutes after coming on as a substitute in his first Swiss Super League match. Links with clubs including Manchester United began to emerge as he earned a spot as the youngest Swiss player at Euro 2016 – a squad packed with talent, despite being sourced from a country roughly half the size of French Guiana with a population of around a million fewer people than Hungary.

A big move to the Bundesliga with Schalke followed, but serious injuries held him back in Gelsenkirchen as he missed the best part of 21 months of action. Matters improved after a switch to Borussia Monchengladbach in 2019, although his progress has been disrupted by some off-field indiscretions including a six-figure fine and one-game ban after he was accused by police of fleeing over rooftops after a raid on an illegal party in January this year (Embolo denied he attended the party).

His ability, though, has never been in question, even as other Switzerland players have attained greater continental acclaim. As Urs Fischer, Basel head coach in 2015, said: "I've coached Josip Drmic and Admir Mehmedi, and with Ricardo Rodriguez you could already see in the Under-15s that he was going to have a huge career.

"Ricci also had this carefreeness and calmness, only with Breel it seems to me that it's all a step higher. And he did it in a way where I have to say: very strong!"

'Strong' is certainly the word to describe his performances at Euro 2020.

 

Embolo scored his first tournament goal for Switzerland in their opening draw with Wales, a game Robert Page's men would likely admit was one they should have lost. Embolo should really have been the match-winner: he attempted at least twice as many shots (six) as anyone else in the contest, goalkeeper Danny Ward denied him another two goals, and a VAR review intervened after he set up what looked to have been the decisive third goal.

Switzerland have since scored six more goals, three against Turkey and three in that amazing last-16 tie with France, and Embolo has neither scored nor assisted any of them. And yet, his attacking influence cannot be dismissed. After all, this is a player who scored five times in 31 Bundesliga games last season, who has averaged a goal every 243 minutes in 107 games for Schalke and Gladbach in Germany's top flight, but was summed up as follows by former Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel: "He's a player who runs enough up front for three. That means we don't expect a goal a game from him."

Prior to the quarter-finals, only two players – Kylian Mbappe (25) and Joakim Maehle (23) – had attempted more dribbles than Embolo (21) at Euro 2020. Seven of those take-ons were in the opposition box, the most of anyone at the tournament. He has had 30 touches of the ball in the opponents' box in four games, a figure bettered only by Alvaro Morata (32) and Mbappe (35). That sort of dynamism on the ball has proved key for a side who have averaged 52 per cent of the ball in their matches, the 11th-highest figure of all 24 teams.

 

What we have also seen is a supreme contribution off the ball, one that perhaps is at odds with a player sometimes seen showing more spirited antics off the pitch than on it. His combined total of 41 duels won and recoveries at Euro 2020 was the highest tally among forward players over the first four rounds of fixtures. It is precisely that mixture of hard work and direct running that could be critical to their chances against Spain, who are expected to dominate possession and persist with a high defensive line.

This tournament has looked like being a watershed moment for Embolo: a showcase not just of his ability, but his commitment to the cause and, at just 24, his leadership. Keep that going against Spain, and it will really be worth singing about.

Luis Enrique pledged there will be no complacency from his Spain side as La Roja prepare to take on Switzerland in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.

While Spain needed extra-time to see off a resurgent Croatia 5-3 in the last 16, Switzerland stunned world champions France 5-4 on penalties after a dramatic 3-3 draw in Bucharest.

Both of those ties took place on Monday, albeit Switzerland's game edged into Tuesday local time, and the teams now face a quick turnaround for Friday's contest in Saint Petersburg.

This is the first meeting between Switzerland and Spain at the European Championship.

Their three previous meetings in a major tournament came in the 1966, 1994 and 2010 World Cups, with La Roja winning the first two and Switzerland triumphing last time out – albeit Spain went on to win the trophy despite that group-stage defeat.

However, that defeat in South Africa is Spain's only loss to Switzerland in 22 meetings in all competitions.

The teams met in October and November last year, in the Nations League group stage, with Spain winning 1-0 at home before drawing 1-1 on the road, and Luis Enrique is under no illusions as to the scale of test his team will have to pass if they are to face either Belgium or Italy in the last four.

"The reality is Switzerland have got through and nothing else matters," Spain's head coach told a news conference.

"The good thing for us is that both teams know each other very well. We competed recently in the Nations League.

"They're going to be a very tough team to face and I think for the spectator there might not be some big names, but they're a great group of players.

"They're a match for us in terms of the way they press, the way they attack, so it's going to be very difficult for us."

Spain are the first team in European Championship history to score five or more goals in consecutive games, having defeated Slovakia 5-0 in their final group match before edging Croatia in a thriller.

They had not scored more than four goals in any of their first 42 matches in the competition, though Switzerland have netted three times in each of their last two games, having never scored more than twice in any of their first 15 matches at the Euros.

"We need to be hungry again, greedy, to make it to the next round," Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic, who will be shorn of the suspended Granit Xhaka, told reporters.

"From this point on I can't say I'm satisfied and happy that we made it so far because, for me, the next step is always the most important.

"We want to succeed, make it to the next round. We know that we have to play against one of the strongest teams, Spain, one of the favourites, but we will try to take our chance and make it to the next round."

Lionel Messi became a free agent on Thursday, but Xavi believes it is a matter of time before the captain and record goalscorer re-commits to Barcelona.

While away with Argentina at the Copa America, Messi has been focusing on that tournament, and as July arrived there was no word of a new contract at Camp Nou.

That meant his previous deal expired, making Messi potentially available to suitors that may wish to sign him.

Interest from Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain has appeared to go quiet amid an assumption that Messi will stay with Barcelona.

Former team-mate Xavi feels Messi is moving closer to signing again with the Catalans and would put money on the 34-year-old doing so, even if small doubts linger.

"These are market circumstances, we have to wait," Xavi said. "I imagine he is talking to the club and the president.

"I wish Leo the best, as a friend of his and as a cule [a Barcelona fan], I wish him to continue at Barca. Hopefully, it can be announced as soon as possible."

Speaking to Mundo Deportivo, Xavi, who is coach of Al Sadd, added: "If I had to bet, I would say that he will continue at the club, although many things have been said in football, but I would say that he will continue.

"Leo needs Barca and Barca need Leo. He is happy in Barcelona; he has spent his life there. I would bet on him renewing."

Messi was again hugely influential for the LaLiga giants last season, finishing as the league's top scorer and managing 38 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.

He created 117 chances for others and netted a goal every 110.32 minutes, when taking all competitions into account.

Jordi Alba was next on the list of the most chances created, teeing up 85 goalscoring opportunities, while of players with more than five goals, Antoine Griezmann had the next-best minutes-per-goal ratio, with one every 195.2 minutes.

 

In terms of the most games played, top-flight rookie Pedri finished top of the pile with 52 games, and he has since gone on to play for Spain at Euro 2020.

Pedri will then go on to the Olympic Games and will have had barely any break by the time LaLiga gets under way in 2021-22.

Barcelona are reportedly unhappy at the demands placed on the shoulders of the 18-year-old midfielder, but Xavi thinks such experiences are priceless.

He said: "If I were Pedri, I would go to the Games. I had the opportunity at the time, and they are opportunities that do not return.

"He is 18 years old and footballers want to play. It's a unique opportunity to go to the Games. If you ask Pedri, he will tell you that he is excited."

Luis Enrique's free-scoring Spain will look to avoid the same fate as France when they take on European Championship quarter-final debutants Switzerland.

Switzerland pulled off one of the tournament's all-time greatest shocks by eliminating competition favourites France on penalties in the last 16 after a thrilling 3-3 draw.

La Roja were also involved in a game that saw six goals inside an eventful 90 minutes, before going on to beat Croatia 5-3 in extra time in another Euros classic.

In doing so, Spain became the first side in European Championship history to score five or more goals in successive games, having seen off Slovakia 5-0 in their final group match.

Ahead of Friday's showdown with Switzerland, Luis Enrique has vowed to stick to an attacking style of play.

"I'm ready for games like the one against Croatia if we have another – but I'm not sure if my family or the fans feel the same," he said.

"We won't play long ball, defensive football even if playing the way we do brings wild matches. We only defend by trying to own the ball and play."

Switzerland have reached the last eight of the World Cup on three occasions, but this is the furthest they have ever made it at a European Championship.

They have never previously made it to the semi-finals of a tournament but, buoyed by their famous triumph against France, Vladimir Petkovic's players have a chance to change that.

"The game against France was almost too emotional. All my players gave 120 per cent," said Petkovic, who will be without suspended skipper Granit Xhaka.

"It was probably one of my team's best games ever. We will now need a similar performance against Spain in the quarter-finals."

Spain have lost just one of their 22 meetings with Switzerland in all competitions (W16 D5), with that solitary defeat coming in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

 


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Switzerland - Haris Seferovic

Benfica striker Seferovic scored just one goal in his first 13 major tournament appearances for Switzerland, but he has now netted three in his last two appearances at Euro 2020.

That includes a couple of well-taken goals in the win against France, and he is now out to become the second Swiss player – after Josef Hugi at the 1954 World Cup – to score in three successive appearances in a single tournament.

Spain - Ferran Torres

Manchester City attacker Torres was recalled to Spain's starting line-up for the Croatia match after scoring from the bench in the resounding win against Slovakia.

He made the most of his opportunity with another goal and an assist in the last 16, making it eight goal involvements – seven goals and one assist – in his last nine international appearances.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- This is the first clash between Switzerland and Spain at the Euros. Their three previous meetings in a major tournament came in the 1966, 1994 and 2010 World Cups, with Spain winning the first two and Switzerland triumphing last time out.

- Spain have scored five-plus goals in consecutive European Championship games. They had not scored more than four goals in any of their first 42 matches in the competition.

- Switzerland have scored three times in each of their past two Euros matches, having never scored more than twice in any of their first 15 in the competition. They previously scored three-plus goals in three straight matches in all competitions in October 2017.

- Having scored with just 8.5 per cent of their shots in the group stages (4/47), Switzerland converted 25 per cent of their attempts in the last-16 meeting with France (3/12).

- Spain are averaging 73.4 per cent possession and have a passing accuracy of 89.5 per cent at Euro 2020 so far. Both figures are their highest on record in a single European Championship (since 1980).

Alvaro Morata says he knows why he has been the target of the boo boys during Euro 2020 but is not prepared to talk about the reasons until after Spain's campaign is over.

The Juventus striker has scored twice during the tournament, including a fine effort that put Luis Enrique's side back in front during extra time of the exhilarating 5-3 win over Croatia in the last 16.

At the same time, Morata has missed a glut of opportunities. Indeed, his six missed big chances – as defined by Opta – is the most of any player, and the return lower than an expected goals rate of 3.95.

More may also have been expected given Morata has had 15 shots in total (joint highest with Cristiano Ronaldo), eight of which have been on target – the joint-best with Patrik Schick, who has four goals to his name.

Morata's indifferent finishing has led to heavy criticism from sections of the fan base, while the ex-Chelsea forward revealed his family had been the target of abuse and threats – actions head coach Luis Enrique rightly described as "criminal" and urged for police action to be taken.

He will have the opportunity to keep silencing his critics when Spain go up against Switzerland in the quarter-finals on Friday and Morata has no issue addressing his detractors when the time is right.

"I know the reason [why they keep booing me]," he told Deportes Cuatro. "I know it perfectly well and it isn't very difficult to understand.

"When the European Championship finishes, if everything goes well, I will speak. I have no problem. I am fully aware why they boo me, of course."

 

Spain's eventual triumph over Croatia was an instant European Championship classic but Morata has not spent much time reviewing that game.

He added: "I haven't watched [the goal] a lot.

"I really want to watch the match. I have seen highlights, but I want to watch it with the whole team to improve.

"It was a match of many emotions and it was good for people who watched it in television, but we lost control of the match twice and that can't happen again.

"The [Croatia] match will be remembered as long as we keep winning."

As well as having the unwavering support of his coach, Morata's team-mates seemingly have full confidence in his ability to lead the line too.

Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta says Morata is going through similar experiences to Spanish greats David Villa and Fernando Torres but has already proven capable of handling the pressure.

"Alvaro is becoming more and more mature. He has received criticism, but he is the forward of the team," Azpilicueta told Marca.

"It happened to Villa, to Fernando...it's not easy. Alvaro has shown that he knows how to be and face the challenges that lay ahead.

"He has confidence in himself and not only because of the goal, but also because of the great game he played."

Pedri and Unai Simon were among a group of six Spain stars at Euro 2020 who received an Olympic Games call-up on Tuesday.

Spain Under-21 head coach Luis de la Fuente, who will take charge of the Olympic team in Tokyo, announced a 22-man list that must be trimmed to 18 for the tournament.

Teenage Barcelona midfielder Pedri has been one of the standout figures in Luis Enrique's Spain team at the European Championship, while Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Simon got away with a huge mistake in the last-16 game against Croatia, when he conceded an own goal before Spain roared back to earn a 5-3 win.

He carelessly failed to deal with Pedri's back pass and the ball rolled into the net.

They were joined on De la Fuente's squad list by senior Spain colleagues Eric Garcia, Pau Torres, Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal.

As expected, there was no place for veteran Sergio Ramos, who wanted to represent Spain at both Euro 2020 and the Olympics this year but was called up for neither tournament.

Ramos, who is leaving Real Madrid after 16 years, endured an injury-plagued 2020-21 season.

 

Spain, who were gold medallists in men's football at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, also included Real Madrid duo Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio, Valencia's Carlos Soler, Sevilla's Bryan Gil and Mikel Merino of Real Sociedad in a strong line-up.

Monday's victory over Croatia at Euro 2020 has carried Spain through to a quarter-final against Switzerland, to be played in St Petersburg on Friday.

Should Spain go all the way to the final, they will contest the showpiece at Wembley on July 11. 

The Olympic football competition begins before the Games is officially declared open, with Spain due to play Egypt at the Sapporo Dome in their opening Group C game on July 22, a day ahead of the opening ceremony.

De la Fuente said he had no doubts about selecting Simon, despite his error at the Euros.

"I know Unai Simon. I know of his strength and integrity," De la Fuente said. "Yesterday he had an exceptional reaction after a difficult moment."


Provisional Spain squad for Tokyo Olympics: Alvaro Fernandez (Huesca), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao)), Alex Domínguez (Las Palmas); Mingueza (Barcelona), Jesus Vallejo (Granada), Eric García (Barcelona), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Oscar Gil (Espanyol), Juan Miranda (Real Betis); Marc Cucurella (Getafe), Jon Moncayola (Osasuna), Martin Zubimendi (Real Sociedad), Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Carlos Soler (Valencia), Pedri (Barcelona); Bryan Gil (Sevilla), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad, Rafa Mir (Wolves), Javi Puado (Espanyol).

Luis Enrique believes any national team in the world would gladly have Alvaro Morata in their line-up after helping Spain reach the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.

Spain forward Morata put patchy form in front of goal behind him to fire a brilliant extra-time strike and re-establish La Roja's lead in Copenhagen on Monday, en route to a thrilling 5-3 last-16 win over Croatia.

Before the match, Luis Enrique branded abuse and threats directed towards Morata and his family as "criminal" and urged the police to take action.

After a breathless encounter at Parken Stadium, which Spain led 3-1 with five minutes of normal time remaining, the Spain head coach once again offered unwavering backing to his centre-forward.

"I don't think there's a national team coach anywhere in the world who wouldn't value Morata and what he does for the team" he said, after the 28-year-old completed 84 per cent of his passes in the opposition half and created two chances for team-mates.

"He's dominant aerially, he's strong and he gets us goals. We really need to appreciate having a striker like him."

 

Spain fell behind in the first half when goalkeeper Unai Simon let a 40-yard backpass from Pedri skip past him and into the net.

The Athletic Bilbao keeper made amends early in extra time with a stunning close-range save from Andrej Kramaric when the score was 3-3.

"Unai gave a lesson to kids everywhere," Luis Enrique said.

"Football is made up of errors and his reaction, making great saves, was an example of why we have such confidence in him."

The former Barcelona boss added: "I've lived through really intense matches as a player and manager but this one genuinely had a bit of everything."

After becoming the first team to score five goals in back-to-back games in European Championship history, Spain will face Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

Vladimir Petkovic's side emulated Croatia's feat by launching a late comeback to draw 3-3 with France before beating the world champions on penalties as Yann Sommer saved decisively from Kylian Mbappe in the shoot-out.

June 28, 2021 – it has been a 'remember where you were' kind of day at the European Championship, with the round of 16 treating us to two absolute classics.

After seeing Spain emerge as winners over Croatia in an eight-goal match, many of us were probably settling down to watch France expecting a rather duller affair given their approach in the group stage.

What we got was the complete opposite, as Switzerland pulled off what will probably be the biggest shock of the tournament regardless of what happens from this point on.

With 14 goals between the two matches, only June 23, 2021 has seen more scored on a single day in Euros history but that came from a pool of four matches.

Furthermore, this was the first day at a European Championship or World Cup with two games featuring at least six goals each since June 15, 1982.

At the end of a truly remarkable day, Stats Perform looks at the key Opta stats from two engrossing matches.

Croatia 3-5 Spain (after extra time): Calamitous own goal sets tone for chaotic classic

Given how wasteful Spain have been at times in Euro 2020, it's a remarkable achievement that they have managed to become the first side in European Championship history to score five goals in successive games.

But rarely did they have things their own way, shooting themselves in the foot with Pedri scoring the longest-range own goal in Euros history at 49 yards as Unai Simon saw his pass bobble over his foot.

Incredibly, it was the ninth own goal at Euro 2020, as many as in the previous 15 editions of the tournament combined.

Pablo Sarabia equalised before the break, with Cesar Azpilicueta – now Spain's oldest-ever Euros scorer (31 years, 304 days) – and Ferran Torres putting them 3-1 up in the second period. They were cruising.

Or, they were until the last five minutes of normal time when Mislav Orsic and Mario Pasalic both scored, incredibly forcing extra-time.

But back came La Roja. Alvaro Morata silenced his army of critics with his fifth career goal at the Euros, levelling the Spanish record held by Fernando Torres, and then Mikel Oyarzabal made sure of the victory.

France 3-3 Switzerland (aet, 4-5 on penalties): Mbappe endures nightmare as Swiss refuse to roll over

While it was always going to be tricky for France to go all the way given their tough group and the fact they were on the trickier (in theory) side of the draw, anyone who says they predicted Les Bleus being eliminated by Switzerland is a liar.

Yet here we are, and the Swiss are into the quarter-finals. And, to be fair, they might have booked their place earlier had Hugo Lloris not become the first French goalkeeper to save a penalty at a major tournament (excluding shoot-outs) since 2004 when Switzerland were already 1-0 up.

Within four minutes and three seconds of that save, France were 2-1 up – Karim Benzema making himself only the second Frenchman to score two or more goals in successive games at the Euros since Michel Platini's back-to-back hat-tricks at Euro 84.

Paul Pogba then got what should have been the clincher 15 minutes from time with a scorching finish, his fourth in five goals for France to come from outside the box.

But Haris Seferovic got his second of the game to take his tally to three goals in two games after only previously managing one in 13 major tournament appearances, and Mario Gavranovic's dramatic effort secured extra time.

It was in the extra 30 minutes when Mbappe was particularly wasteful, missing one especially good chance, and what followed in the shoot-out ultimately made sense in that context.

After the first nine kicks were converted, Mbappe – who has had more shots (14) without scoring than any other player at Euro 2020 – saw his effort saved by Yann Sommer.

It means Switzerland will contest a quarter-final for the first time since 1954, while France failed to get to that stage for the first time since 2010.

 

Sergio Busquets believes Spain are growing stronger by the game at Euro 2020 after La Roja defeated Croatia 5-3 in a European Championship classic to reach the quarter-finals.

Luis Enrique's side won their first knockout game at a major tournament since winning Euro 2012 nine years ago, triumphing in a thrilling contest at Parken Stadium on Monday.

Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres were all on target to give Spain a commanding 3-1 lead after Pedri's bizarre own goal from 49 yards had put Croatia ahead.

But substitute Mislav Orsic scored one and set up another for Mario Pasalic in the space of seven minutes late on in Copenhagen to set up extra time.

It is the just the second time Spain have conceded three goals in their Euros history, but they won the match through extra-time strikes from Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal, both goals set up by substitute Dani Olmo.

Spain captain Busquets was particularly pleased with the way his side responded to the own goal, with Unai Simon miscontrolling Pedri's backpass and letting the ball roll into his own net.

"Unai knows he's got our total confidence. The goal was bad luck but his mentality is very laidback while remaining ambitious, and he showed that today," Busquets said after collecting the man of the match award at full-time.

"He was ultra-secure after the goal and made some top saves. The team has managed to recover and it is a great victory. This win leaves us good feelings. The team knows what it plays and what it wants. 

"We are a difficult opponent to beat and are growing stronger in this tournament as it goes."

Spain are the first side in European Championship history to score five or more goals in successive games, with five different players registering for La Roja in a single game at a major tournament for the first time.

However, Busquets admits there is room for improvement after giving away a comical opening goal and allowing Croatia a way back into the game when in control with five minutes left.

"We had chances to finish the game off quite early on but we showed character throughout," he said. "When Croatia changed their system, they flooded the pitch high up and we didn't adjust quickly enough.

"Scoring five times and going through still suggests that we have to improve, but to get to the quarter-finals is an indication that we're a good team. 

"We were very good today, very intense, well prepared and we beat a very, very difficult rival here."

Monday's match was the second-highest scoring contest in European Championship history, behind only France against Yugoslavia in the 1960 semi-finals (a 5-4 victory for Yugoslavia).

Croatia ultimately came out the wrong side of the eight-goal classic, and captain Luka Modric accepts his side lacked the quality needed to complete a famous comeback.

"We took the lead from a lucky goal. Afterwards, they were better – at least for the first 60 minutes," he told HRT. "We stood too deep in our half and let them play. 

"When we attacked more, we played better and created more chances and that is where the equaliser came from; when we showed quality and character. 

"At the start of extra time we had them on the ropes but we failed to score from two good chances. Then the game turned around and we didn't have the strength to come back."

When Dani Olmo's right-footed cross curled through the fervent Copenhagen evening, it only had one man's name on it.

The name of a striker who has plied his trade at the top of European football for the duration of his career, the name of a player chosen to lead the line for one of the continent's great footballing heavyweights.

But also the name of a 28-year-old man with a wife and a young family, whose struggles at Euro 2020 have provoked unforgivable threats from poisonous throats and wicked fingers.

"I would like people to put themselves in my shoes and think what it's like to get threats towards my family, people saying: 'I hope your children die'," Alvaro Morata told Cadena Cope this week, after scoring once but missing a catalogue of chances during the group stage.

"I've had to leave my phone outside my room. My wife and children have come to the stadium in Seville with Morata on the back of their shirts and people have been shouting at them. 

"It's complicated. I understand people booing me for missing chances but there's a limit."

Olmo, who himself slammed Morata's abusers for "going beyond" had put his team-mate in the spotlight once more. It was a perfect cross at odds with the frenzied, haywire nonsense that had gone before.

But then, that's Spain at major tournaments nowadays. It's complicated.

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Since winning Euros 2008 and 2012 either side of the 2010 World Cup, Spain were without a win in major tournament knockout games ahead of Monday's last-16 encounter with Croatia at Parken Stadium.

At the 2014 World Cup, they were dumped out at the group stage, at Euro 2016 they were comprehensively outplayed by Antonio Conte's Italy and the hosts bored them to a penalty shoot-out loss at Russia 2018.

But this time it would be different, right?

In Luis Enrique, they have a high-class coach with a point to prove. They put collective goalscoring demons behind them by shellacking Slovakia 5-0 and began against Croatia with authoritative dominance.

Pedri, the youngest player to start a European Championship knockout game at 18 years and 215 days, had everyone dancing to his tune. A stunning throughball released Koke, who should have scored. Morata, naturally, also should have scored but misjudged a header.

It seemed a matter of time before Spain scored with Pedri heavily involved. The Barcelona youngster pinging a 40-yard backpass beyond a haphazard attempt at control from goalkeeper Unai Simon – giving Croatia the lead before they had enjoyed either a shot or a touch inside the opposition penalty area – was not in anyone's script, however.

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Scripts, match reports and strands of hair have long since been ripped apart by the time Morata smoothly controlled Olmo's centre with his right foot.

It was time to make his impression upon a contest of clinical finishing and frazzled brains.

"The situation is so serious that it must be put in the hands of the police because it is a serious crime," Luis Enrique rightly said when addressing the media this week.

"Insulting Morata's relatives is a crime and I hope it is corrected outright."

In the sporting sense, he had seen his team fall victim to an improbable heist and needed the centre-forward he trusts above all others.

Around 50 minutes earlier, Morata could look on with satisfaction and leave the finishing to right-back Cesar Azpilicueta, who powered home Ferran Torres' 57th-minute cross.

The effervescent Pablo Sarabia equalised before half-time and Torres getting in on the act showed Spain have enough firepower to absorb Morata's more erratic moments and enjoy his slick, intelligent link play. He created two openings for team-mates and completed 84 per cent of his passes deep in Croatian territory.

Luka Modric, the old master so outplayed by Pedri, was goaded into penning the sting in the tail as he shuffled towards the Spain six-yard box to set up substitute Mislav Orsic.

Right then, it felt as if Luis Enrique might have erred in taking off Sarabia, Torres and Koke to rest their legs for the quarters, not to mention disrupting Aymeric Laporte and Eric Garcia's central defensive pairing by throwing on Pau Torres for the latter.

When Mario Pasalic converted Orsic's brilliant delivery from deep to spark unbridled bedlam, we had our answer.

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Morata's perfect first touch granted him time in a game where no one seemed to have any, despite an additional 30 minute being bolted on.

Orsic blazed over at the start of extra time with Spain rocking, while Andrej Kramaric drew a magnificent save from Simon when the score was 3-3.

In terms of redemptive moments, that was only the supporting act.

Where he has snatched at changes so often of late, Morata found time to breath and let the ball drop enough for him to drive his left boot brutally through.

It was in from the moment he connected. Olmo's fellow sub Mikel Oyarzabal concluded a 5-3 win, making Spain the first team to score five goals in consecutive European Championship matches.

That's an awful lot to celebrate for some who have mercilessly tormented their hero of the hour and his loved ones. They don't deserve Alvaro Morata, and the endurance and perseverance that mean one of this tournament's greatest ever games belongs to him.

Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal scored extra-time goals to earn Spain a 5-3 win over Croatia in Monday's breathless Euro 2020 last-16 tie after La Roja had squandered a two-goal lead late on in normal time.

Spain recovered from a bizarre Pedri own goal at Parken Stadium thanks to strikes from Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres to lead 3-1 with 85 minutes played.

However, Mislav Orsic bundled in to give Croatia a lifeline in Copenhagen and then set up fellow substitute Mario Pasalic in the 92nd minute to take an enthralling game to extra time.

But Spain dug deep in the additional period to book a place in the quarter-finals, where either France or Switzerland await, with Morata making amends for an earlier miss with a well-taken goal and Oyarzabal adding a second from the bench to settle a game that will go down as a European Championship classic.

Profligacy cost Spain in their opening two group games and that looked like being the case again in Copenhagen after Koke was denied by Dominik Livakovic from a one-on-one and Morata headed into Domagoj Vida from close range.

A comical moment followed as Pedri's pass from 49.4 yards was miscontrolled by Unai Simon and rolled into the back of the net, making it the longest-range own goal in European Championship history.

Luis Enrique's men responded well by equalising before half-time through Sarabia's powerful drive after Jose Gaya's shot was parried into his path by Livakovic.

Azpilicueta put Spain in front with his first international goal by getting in front of Josko Gvardiol and guiding Torres' cross past Livakovic from inside the six-yard box.

Spain gave themselves breathing space nine minutes later as Torres cut inside and clinically finished off a swift move.

With five minutes to go, though, Orsic followed up after a scramble in the box to help the ball over the line – the goal allowed to stand following a VAR check for handball inside the box.

Then came the dramatic leveller in added time, with Pasalic left in space inside the box to head in Orsic's cross and pave the way for an additional 30 minutes.

Croatia started the period of extra time on top and would have taken the lead if not for an incredible Simon stop to keep out Andrej Kramaric, but Morata took down Dani Olmo's cross at the back post and thumped past Livakovic four minutes later.

Super sub Olmo then provided the cross for fellow replacement Oyarzabal, who also hit the post in the final seconds, to tuck home the eighth goal of a sensational European Championship tie and confirm Spain's place in the last eight.

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