France and Croatia crash out on a Euros night to remember

By Andrew Warshaw

June 29 – It was dubbed, variously, Magic Monday, Manic Monday and the greatest ever day of the Euros following two epic back-to-back encounters.

Just a few hours after Spain’s dramatic last-gasp 5-3 win over Croatia, out went world champions France on Monday in the biggest shock of the tournament to date as their star-studded team squandered a 3-1 lead against Switzerland and then lost a nail-biting penalty shootout.

And not just any shootout, Yann Sommer pulling off a sensational one-handed stop to thwart the world’s best young player, Kylian Mbappe.

It was pulsating, electrifying stuff, the result of which means both World Cup finalists from 2018 have exited the competition at the last-16 stage, along with reigning European champions Portugal – beaten at the weekend by Belgium.

In Bucharest, Didier Deschamps’ France trailed at half-time after a woeful opening 45 minutes and it could have got worse as Hugo Lloris saved Ricardo Rodriguez’s penalty.

That was the spark for Karim Benzema to score twice and Paul Pogba to produce a long-range strike that should have put the tie to bed.

But somehow, the Swiss underdogs regrouped, Haris Seferovic and Mario Gavranovic forcing extra time before Mbappe’s deciding penalty kick was saved, sparking jubilation on the Swiss bench and stunned dejection among the ranks of French fans as one of the heavyweight tournament favourites went home.

It was Switzerland’s first knockout stage victory at any major tournament since 1938 and the first time they have made the last eight since the 1954 World Cup which they hosted. They now go forward to face Spain on Friday in St Petersburg.

“Honestly I am still in shock,” said Sommer, who became the most capped Swiss keeper with 65 international appearances.

“We showed courage, heart, we left everything out there. When you come back from two goals down against the world champions it is just unbelievable, and then to win on penalties, I could not be prouder of the way we did it.”

“Before the game we had said no matter what happens in the game, it doesn’t matter if we’re down, or if things are going well, we play until the end. We felt France had become a bit complacent and maybe thought they had already won it. So we used that to our advantage.”

“We always believed, we always said if we are down we will not give up. It was our chance to go through. It is incredible how we played. We believed it, we are a small country but we have a lot of quality and have experience in our squad. We showed it.”

The result means France coach Didier Deschamps will miss out on becoming the first man to win World Cup and Euro titles both as a player and a coach.

“It is my responsibility and I told the players that I assume it,” said Deschamps whose position must now be in doubt given the magnitude of the defeat. “That’s the way sport is. You have to accept it even if it hurts.”

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