Spain reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 in dramatic fashion by beating Croatia 5-3 in extra time after an eight-goal thriller.
Luis Enrique’s side were rocked when Croatia substitutes Mislav Orsic and Mario Pasalic scored twice in the final five minutes to come back from 3-1 down and force extra time, but Spain rallied as the added 30 minutes produced yet more drama.
Striker Alvaro Morata, who revealed before the match that his family have been threatened during the tournament as a result of his performances, silenced his critics when he thumped in Spain’s fourth goal in extra time in Copenhagen.
The scoring did not end there as Mikel Oyarzabal added a fifth goal three minutes later to finally see off Croatia, who had fought bravely in this highly entertaining last-16 tie.
In a hint of what was to come, 20 minutes into the game goalkeeper Unai Simon failed to control Pedri’s 49-yard back pass, presenting Croatia with the lead.
That bizarre own goal sparked a response from Spain though, with Pablo Sarabia thumping in an equaliser, Cesar Azpilicueta heading in another and Ferran Torres making it 3-1.
Spain looked comfortable and poised to cruise through but Croatia burst into action through their substitutes late on to force added time.
The thrilling moments continued as Simon made up for his earlier error with a heroic stop from close range to deny Andrej Kramaric before Morata went up the other end to crucially put Spain ahead again.
It was the most entertaining match of the tournament to date and three-time champions Spain will face Switzerland – after they beat France in another brilliant match – in the quarter-finals.
Spain became the first side in European Championship history to score five or more goals in consecutive matches – but Morata’s was the most important.
The forward had missed several good chances in the tournament before this game and it looked like it would not be his night again when he failed to nod in Ferran Torres’ cross early on.
Two minutes later, that miss looked especially costly as Croatia took the lead – but it was Morata who the Spain players gathered to congratulate at full-time after their place in the quarter-finals was sealed thanks largely to his goal.
Spain’s credentials to go deep into the tournament have been enhanced by this display of character to initially bounce back from the own goal then re-gather themselves after Croatia had forced extra time.
The scenes at full-time were a mixture of jubilation and relief and they will now prepare for a quarter-final with Switzerland, who knocked out world champions France in an extraordinary penalty shootout in Bucharest.
Kylian Mbappe missed the crucial kick as Switzerland beat France on penalties after a classic European Championship game.
The Swiss had been seconds away from elimination during 90 minutes but go through to face Spain after progressing from a major tournament knockout game for the first time since 1938.
Haris Seferovic headed the Swiss ahead and they had a penalty saved that could have made it 2-0 before Karim Benzema scored twice and Paul Pogba put France 3-1 up with a screamer.
Seferovic headed in his second goal of the game for Switzerland and substitute Mario Gavranovic hammered in a last-minute equaliser to send the game to extra time.
Mbappe missed a couple of big chances for the world champions in extra time and Olivier Giroud had a header saved in the final minute.
The last time Switzerland were in the quarter-finals of a major tournament was the 1954 World Cup that they hosted.
They had not progressed through a knockout game since the 1938 World Cup.
They had few chances to score in extra time but they tucked away all five penalties in the shootout to progress to Friday’s quarter-final in Russia.
France were wretched in the first half as Didier Deschamps tried a three-man defence – a system he barely ever uses – because of injuries to two of their left-backs.
He abandoned that midway through the first half with Les Bleus trailing 1-0 and in danger of going behind by more.
It looked as if 243 seconds in the second half was their get-out-of-jail-free card. That was the time between Lloris’ penalty save at 1-0 and Benzema putting them 2-1 up.
Benzema’s first was sensational, as he controlled Mbappe’s pass with a backheel flick before clipping the ball past Sommer.
He then headed in at the back post from Antoine Griezmann’s deflected cross.
Pogba scored one of the goals of the tournament as he found the top corner from 30 yards out.
They looked completely comfortable then – but bottled it as the Swiss came back. Kingsley Coman did almost win it for them with the last kick of the 90 minutes but hit the crossbar.
And so it came to penalties and Mbappe – one of the stars of France’s World Cup win – ended Euro 2020 with no goals and the penalty miss that eliminated them.
They never got going in the Euros – and now the only place they are going is home. (BBC)