Updated Friday, July 2, 2021 –

When Vargas sent his penalty to the clouds, Mikel Oyarzabal began to walk. He did it slowly, very slowly, looking like he was thinking about the crossword puzzle that had been left halfway at the hotel. As the ball was almost in the band, he went for it. I walked slowly, very slowly. What three-letter word means semi-finals? Mikel, who took the ball, slowly, with a pause, and walked back slowly, very slowly, to the penalty spot. What was that damn word? Anyway. Fro, thinking of the blissful three-letter word, looked at summerHe took a deep breath and trotted slowly, very slowly, towards the ball. A moment before stroking the ball, the three-letter word for semi-finals came to mind: goal. He hid the shot, sent Sommer to one side and the ball to the other, and shot Spain into the semi-finals of the game. Eurocup, an unthinkable step not even 15 days ago. It was the end, Mikel’s crossword, to a strange afternoon.

In all the big tournaments you need lucky. And not a little. Spain had it against Switzerland after forcing themselves to some harrowing penalties from which they came out alive thanks to Unai Simn, that pair two, and the cold blood of Oyarzabal. As happened in 2008 against Italy, the penalties in the quarterfinals are sensed as a pistol shot. It happens that in this Euro Cup there are already two, counting Croatia as the first. These guns are not bad for a selection that is beginning to build its own history. The selection survived a gray afternoon in which that Russian roulette was forced in a bad way, in the silliest way actually, because seen what was seen there was no need. First he went ahead without deserving it and, with a surrendered Switzerland, he was not able to maintain the tension and finish the semifinals. He allowed himself to be tied as always, without the rival having to make any merit and, to culminate a gray afternoon, he was not able, for 40 minutes, to defeat a team that played with one less man due to the expulsion of their captain and that it did not go back to the center of the field.

Spain ran into Sommer, but also with the worst version of herself, inexplicable this way of deflating after the adrenaline rush that had been the way to eliminate Croatia. Worst of all, as it came time to shoot penalties, it became more apparent that Spain was doomed to lose them. Because of the inertia of the game, for those final minutes where Swiss courage overcame the little Spanish imagination, where the will power of some overcame the fear of others. Spain is in the semifinals because it recovered from all that and from the failures of Busquest and Rodri, and anecdotes thanks to the immense joy of being at the gates of a final.

Without the required tension

All this took place in a cold environment, unbecoming of a quarter-final of a European Championship. The tournament is going ahead, there is no doubt about that, but seeing atmospheres like yesterday’s (only fanned at the end by the Russian public in search of penalties) it is worth wondering if this is the ideal format, if it had not been better to take it all to a country with different sanitary conditions. That environment can be pointed out, and there is little margin for error, as guilty of the fact that two teams like Spain and Switzerland, who on Monday left a fast-paced soccer day for history, who between them scored eight goals, dispatched the quarters as if It was another day at the office, without the required tension, without the expected excitement, without anything to remember that neither more nor less than a Eurocup semifinals were at stake. Spain will be in them because, despite everything, I came out alive.

Before Alba’s goal, awarded by UEFA to Zakaria, nothing happened, because when a team gets ahead in the minute 7Usually not much has happened. If anything, Spain had already been seen to seize the ball, but little else. It happens that when everything is face to face, everything is face to face, and without even deserving it came Alba’s goal, which was a goal thanks to two things that this selection has recovered: the faith of hitting the goalkeeper from outside the area and fortune. Thus, Spain was already ahead without deserving it yet, and that is always good news for a team that since the start of the Eurocup had almost everything twisted, including the start of the match against Croatia, no matter how much the final aftertaste was excellent.

Zuber and Zakaria protest Oliver after the red to Freuler.AFP

Far from exciting the spirits of the staff the goal, the afternoon was languishing without much to contribute. Luis Enrique he had only minimally touched the equipment by putting Jordi Alba Y Pau Torres for Gay Y Eric Garca.The rest were the same who started the eighth, and with an advantage the team was entering a field of empty possessions that left the vital signs at a minimum. The atmosphere in a stadium as spectacular as it was cold did not help either. With just 500 fans on one side and the other, emotionally involved in what happened on the grass, the game had the atmosphere of a preseason friendly. The Russians cared little. If anything they were going to Switzerland for that thing to give him excitement.

Switzerland assumed that they would not have the ball with more resignation than expected. Contrary to what he did less than a year ago, he backed off and into his own range, probably expecting a robbery meters ahead for his bullet. But Piston, the fast footballer of the Gladbach, went to the ground in a fight with Pau Torres and had to retire injured. That forced Switzerland to take a couple of steps forward, because ni Shaqiri ni Seferovic they had that ability to run out in the open. Meanwhile, Spain continued to put into practice its automatisms, already very obvious in all matches. For example, every time the opponent delays the ball to his goalkeeper, Morata, or whoever is in the center forward, shoots towards him with the whole team behind to initiate the pressure.

Danger on the baln stationary

Another of these almost instinctive actions is to bring the defense to the midfield line, which together with the fact that the lines do not raise the flag until the end of the play creates stressful situations for those involved. There I found a way to annoy Switzerland, which gradually took advantage of the lack of tension in Luis Enrique’s team, stealthily. Spain had entered that cold environment that, given what she saw, did not suit her, apart from being inappropriate for a date of this substance. Product of that lack of tension Switzerland grew, who had a handful of corners in the last quarter of an hour of the first half, and finished most of them, although without success. It was a warning. On the other shore, and after the goal, Spain had not returned to generate any occasion in all the first half. He hadn’t even gotten close to Sommer.

Entr Dani Olmo at the break for Sarabia and, shortly after starting, Gerard Moreno for Morata,very tired perhaps because of the effort of Croatia. But then Switzerland took a step forward. He took the ball, or at least argued about it, and began to get corners that ended up becoming an ordeal. They were finished off by all of Petkovic’s, bigger ones. Zakaria He headed one at the far post that was the first warning. Spain, more under pressure, was no longer so comfortable in the match in the second half. Luis Enrique’s team had deflated in an inexplicable way.

Gerard, Alba and Thiago celebrate their move to the semifinals.
Gerard, Alba and Thiago celebrate their move to the semifinals.AFP

So relaxed was Spain that in an absurd rebound between Laporte and Pau Torres the ball fell to Seferovic, who gave the goal to Shaqiri. Again, with very little, because apart from the crners Switzerland had done nothing. Spain receives punishment. At that time, the inertia of the game was no longer good for Spain, and it never was again. Even so, he had the option of retaliating, because when it was worst Freuler, the Swiss captain, saw the red for a rather ugly entry on Gerard Moreno. It was minute 77 and Spain had a quarter of an hour ahead to avoid the extension, and if they were not capable, they had half an hour of extension to avoid penalties. None of that could do.

Nor with Ferran center forward, neither with Gerard Moreno, nor with Marcos Llorente placeholder image, who returned to the grass, nor with Oyarzabal. Tir Luis Enrique up from Thiago, but nothing. Spain was not comfortable in the game and the few times that it managed to reach summer, he found the inspired version of the goalkeeper, who led his team to penalties. However, there was the shadow of Unai Simn.

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