Euro 2016 | Shaqiri's stunner goes in vain as Poland beat Switzerland on penalties

Euro 2016 | Shaqiri's stunner goes in vain as Poland beat Switzerland on penalties

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Poland defeated Switzerland on 5-4 on penalties in the round of 16 clash of the Euro 2016 at the Geoffroy-Guichard on Saturday. Krychowiak hit the winning penalty after Xherdan Shaqiri's stunning equalizer meant the match ended 1-1 at normal time, before the teams played out a goalless extra time.

Knockout stages in the European Championship is an uncharted territory for both Switzerland and Poland. The latter disappointed the home fans four years back, when they co-hosted the tournament, and they are determined to improve on that. Despite fielding the best striker in Europe in their lineup and reaching their first knockout stage, they are yet to hit their full stride. Similarly, Switzerland have not really played to their full potential, having scored just two goals in their opening three games.

Switzerland manager Vladimir Petković fielded an unchanged lineup for this game, while Poland made three changes to the team. Adam Nawalka had rested Lukasz Piszczek, Krzysztof Maczyński and the former captain Blaszczykowski during their last match against Ukraine, and the trio were brought back for this game.

Wasteful Poland

Poland came out firing all cylinders at the start of the game, and the two strikers at the top of their attack pressed the Swiss players, who tried to play the ball from the back. Milik grabbed the ball off Polish left back Rodriguez in the opening minute, and the youngster missed an open goal. That set the tone for most of the first half as the Polish side missed a host of chances. They had six attempts on goal in the opening 20 minutes of the match, and except a weak header from Lewandowski, none of them tested Yann Sommer in goal. By the end of the first half, Poland had hit the target thrice, one of them was the goal, out of 12 attempts. They were lucky to be not punished for this wastefulness, the young Milik being the biggest culprit.

Former captain leads the way

Jakub Blaszczykowski came off the bench and scored the winner against Ukraine in their last group stage match, and at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, he once again opened the scoring against Switzerland. Interestingly, the goal arrived just when Switzerland were finding their footing in the game. For all their attacks in the initial phases of the first half, Poland found the back of the net from a counter-attack. The ball broke from a Swiss corner and Kamil Grosicki carried it forward with pace down the left wing. He wriggled past Behrami, who was tracking him back, before digging in a cross into the box. Robert Lewandowski left the ball for his former Dortmund teammate, and Blaszczykowski drilled it between the legs of Sommer. It was a goal Poland deserved, as they went into the halftime break with a 1-0 lead.

Cometh the hour, cometh Shaqiri

Poland sat back a lot towards the end of the second half, and eventually, they paid the price. The Swiss players kept pushing for the equalizer, and only to be denied by Fabianski and the crossbar on two occasions. They were in desperate need of some inspiration, and Shaqiri stood up for them, when it mattered the most. The former Bayern Munich midfielder has received a lot of criticism from home press for putting on weight after joining Stoke City. His teammate Philipp Wollscheid stood up for him, saying, “He has always been one who has a strong and muscular physique”.

In the 82nd minute of the game, the 24-year-old talisman showed that despite his apparent increase in weight, he has not lost any of his agility. We have witnessed some brilliant goals in this tournament so far, but Shaqiri might have scored the best of them tonight, especially considering how important it was. An overhead kick from the edge of the box, after the Polish defence failed to clear the ball properly, left Fabianski scrambling across his goal, but to no avail. The ball evaded his gloves and found the back of the net after hitting the post, and the Swiss supporters erupted in joy.

Krychowiak wins it on Penalties

Only one team went into extra time with the desire of winning the match, and it was Switzerland. Shaqiri kept pulling all the strings in the Polish attack at the top, and his delightful cross in the box for Eren Derdiyok, only for Fabianski to produce another brilliant save. That was the last real chance in the game as the match headed into penalties.

Granit Xhaka, who has had a fantastic tournament so far, missed Switzerland's second penalty, and the Polish team exploited that advantage to the fullest. Grzegorz Krychowiak scored the winning penalty in the end to take Poland into the quarters for the first time.

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