The Swiss qualified for their first major tournament quarter-final since 1954 with a stunning win on penalties over reigning world champions France in Bucharest on Monday, and Vladimir Petkovic's side are now hoping to get the better of another European powerhouse in Spain
Switzerland are hoping to take another major scalp at Euro 2020 when they face Spain in the quarter-finals on Friday while Belgium sweat over the fitness of star duo Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne for their heavyweight clash with Italy in Munich.
The Swiss qualified for their first major tournament quarter-final since 1954 with a stunning win on penalties over reigning world champions France in Bucharest on Monday, and Vladimir Petkovic's side are now hoping to get the better of another European powerhouse in Spain.
"We need to be hungry to make it to the next round," said Petkovic, who is without his captain Granit Xhaka, so impressive against France but suspended here.
Spain arrived in Saint Petersburg fresh from a remarkable 5-3 extra-time win over Croatia in the last 16, a result which followed a 5-0 thumping of Slovakia in their final group game.
🇨🇭🆚🇪🇸 Switzerland's first ever EURO quarter-final pits them against three-time winners Spain— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) July 2, 2021
🇧🇪🆚🇮🇹 Belgium & Italy reached the quarter-finals at EURO 2016#EUROfixtures | @bookingcom | #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/AjdC50rA5D
The 2008 and 2012 European champions are building momentum as they look to claim a record fourth continental title altogether, but Spain coach Luis Enrique knows all about the threat posed by the Swiss.
The sides met twice in the UEFA Nations League late last year, including in a dramatic 1-1 draw in which goalkeeper Yann Sommer, Switzerland's penalty shoot-out hero against France, saved two spot-kicks from Sergio Ramos.
"The luck that we have, or the misfortune, is that we know each other very well," Luis Enrique said on Thursday. "They are one of the best collectives in the tournament."
Switzerland vs Spain: Opta stats
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 Spain winning the first two and Switzerland triumphing last time out.
This is Switzerland's fourth quarter-final appearance in a major tournament (World Cup and EURO), and their first in the European Championship. The Swiss have lost each of their previous three such games - 3-2 vs Czechoslovakia (1934), 2-0 vs Hungary (1938) and 7-5 vs Austria (1954).
Spain have become the first team in European Championship history to score 5+ goals in consecutive games. They hadn't scored more than four goals in any of their first 42 matches in the competition.
1,924 – Granit Xhaka has completed 181 forward passes at EURO 2020, accounting for a total progressive distance of 1,924 metres; the most of any midfielder remaining in the competition. Director. #SUI #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/QQ5WLgT5sw— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 30, 2021
Switzerland have scored three goals in each of their last two European Championship matches, having never scored more than twice in any of their first 15 in the competition. Switzerland last scored 3+ goals in three consecutive matches in all competitions in October 2017.
Switzerland vs Spain head to head record
Spain have been dominant in their meetings with Switzerland and will have their tails when they take the field on Friday. La Roja have won 16 of their 22 games against Switzerland, with Switzerland claiming only a solitary win. That Swiss win came in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when the two teams clashed in the group stage. Spain eventually went on to win the tournament, and have been unbeaten ever since against the Swiss. The two countries last faced each other last year, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw, with Remo Freuler and Gerard Moreno getting onto the scoresheet.
Who’s saying what?
Vladimir Petkovic, Switzerland head coach
“We need to be hungry to make it to the next round. From this point on I can’t say I’m satisfied –- because, for me, the next step is always the most important. We want to make it to the next round, even if we’re facing one of the favourites in Spain.”
Xherdan Shakiri, Switzerland’s stand-in captain
“I will prepare as I do for every match. I never change the routine, even if I’m wearing the captain’s armband. I am very proud to lead the team in such an important match, and I want to show my skills on the pitch and help the side.”
“We have shown that we don’t just defend. As we proved against France, we can score more than one goal. We want to show our style of football, 100%, if we do that then everything is possible.”
Luis Enrique, Spain head coach
“Truth is that Switzerland went through and nothing else really matters. The luck that we have, or the misfortune, is that we know each other very well having played each other in the Nations League.
They will be very tough opponents. One of the best collectives in the tournament and it is going to be tough.”
Unai Simon, Spain goalkeeper
“The quarter-final depends on us not our rival. It wouldn’t matter if it were France, the Swiss, Ukraine - we are here to win so we have to face and beat the best,”
- Virus concerns -
The match goes ahead at Saint Petersburg's Krestovsky Stadium despite major concerns about a surge in coronavirus cases in the Russian city, fuelled by the Delta variant.
Russia on Thursday reported 672 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, setting a pandemic high of fatalities for the third day in a row.
Saint Petersburg saw 115 of those deaths but thousands of fans will attend the game at a stadium which has so far welcomed some of the largest crowds permitted at this pandemic-affected European Championship.
The Euro 2020 soccer tournament was on Thursday blamed for a surge in coronavirus cases as fans have flocked to stadiums, bars and spectator zones across Europe to watch the action while the pandemic still raged https://t.co/mJPfnSjyDQ— Dhaka Tribune Sports (@Sport_DT) July 1, 2021
The winners of Friday's first quarter-final will advance to a last-four tie in London next Tuesday against Belgium or Italy.
Friday's second game is a meeting between the top-ranked side in the world in Belgium and an Italy team who have set a national record of 31 matches unbeaten.
Italy has warned any fans from England not to try to use loopholes in COVID travel restrictions to sneak into the quarter-finals Euro 2020 clash between England and Ukraine in Rome on Saturday, even if they have a ticket— Dhaka Tribune Sports (@Sport_DT) July 1, 2021
These were the only sides to win all 10 games in qualifying and the only teams along with the Netherlands to win every match in the group stage.
Something will have to give at the Allianz Arena in Munich.
"You are seeing the two best teams statistically in this competition," said the Belgium coach, Roberto Martinez, whose side saw off holders Portugal in the last round.
"We had to face Portugal really early and now Italy and I think it is a shame for both national teams that we face each other at this stage."
Belgium saw off Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in Seville thanks to Thorgan Hazard's goal and held on despite losing both De Bruyne and Eden Hazard to injury in the second half.
Last-minute decision for Belgium
All week in Belgium the build-up to the quarter-final has been dominated by news of the fitness of their star creative duo.
"We all know that we are fighting against time and we will wait until the last minute to make the decision," Martinez said.
Italy were arguably the most impressive side of all during the group stage as they put a total of seven goals without reply past Turkey, Switzerland and Wales in Rome.
They laboured to get the better of Austria in extra time at Wembley in the last 16 but their coach, Roberto Mancini, is looking forward to facing Belgium and hopes Italy's opponents can be at full strength.
"Belgium are a brilliant team. They have been top of the FIFA world rankings for three years. We are performing well and I think for a spectator, a neutral, it would be great to see them at full strength," Mancini told reporters.
"So we hope that everyone can be fit and firing. Of course they would cause us more problems because of that but that is what is great about football."
Italy vs Belgium: Opta stats
This will be the fifth meeting between Belgium and Italy at a major tournament - all four previous meetings came in the group stages, in the 1954 World Cup and European Championship in 1980, 2000 and 2016. Italy avoided defeat in all four matches, winning three and drawing one.
Against no side have Belgium played more games at major tournaments without winning than Italy (4, level with France and Germany) while the only European nations Italy have faced more often at the same tournaments without losing are Germany (9) and Austria (5).
Italy have reached the quarter-final of the European Championship for a fourth consecutive tournament. Each of those previous three appearances at this stage have been decided by a penalty shootout, with the Italians eliminated by Spain in 2008 and Germany in 2016 while progressing past England in 2012. Indeed, that accounts for three of Italy's five European Championship penalty shootouts - more than any other nation prior to the 2020 edition.
Belgium have won seven of their last eight matches at the European Championships - the exception in this run was at this stage at Euro 2016, when they lost 3-1 to Wales.
Italy have won all four of their matches at EURO 2020; they have never won five consecutive games at the European Championship finals, while only twice previously have they won five or more in a row at any major tournament (World Cup/Euros), winning seven in a row at the World Cup from 1934 to 1938 and five in succession at the World Cup in 1990.
Roberto Mancini has lead Italy to 31 games unbeaten.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 26, 2021
A new record for Azzurri! 🇮🇹👏 pic.twitter.com/EVuvzroeIg
Belgium vs Italy stats: Belgium vs Italy head to head record
Italy have dominated Belgium over the years and have a mighty record against the Red Devils. In their 22 previous meetings, Italy have registered 14 wins, with Belgium clinching just four wins over the Azzuri, while they have settled for four stalemates. Their most recent meeting was also at the European Championships, as Antonio Conte’s Italy swept Belgium aside 2-0 in the group game. The two teams have faced off five times in the European Championships, with Italy winning twice, drawing twice and Belgium clinching a solitary win.
Who’s saying what?
Roberto Martinez, Belgium head coach
“We are fighting against time. We are going to take until the last minute to make the decision on Hazard and De Bruyne. We’ll see tomorrow if they will be involved or not. Tomorrow, it will be a medical decision in the afternoon and then we’ll make a football decision after that.”
Thorgan Hazard, Belgium forward
“Italy will be the toughest opponent we’ve met so far. They’ve had a good run of wins and it will be a nice challenge for us to end that sequence.”
Jorginho, Italy midfielder
“De Bruyne is a player who makes the difference. We have to stop him because he always finds space. He can be really dangerous.”
Ciro Immobile, Italy striker
“Failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup was a lesson for us that will hopefully help us to go far in this European Championship and write over the ugly memories.”