Spain beats Switzerland, reaches Euro 2020 semifinals

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Spain’s dreadful record from the penalty spot didn’t stop the team from reaching the European Championship semifinals.

Thankfully for the Spanish, Switzerland fared worse Friday in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw.

Mikel Oyarzabal converted the decisive spot kick to clinch a 3-1 shootout victory for Spain, which is two wins away from emulating the country’s golden generation that captured European titles in 2008 and 2012.

The Spanish celebrations were of relief as much as joy, with players and members of the coaching staff sprinting onto the field inside Saint Petersburg Stadium and jumping on Oyarzabal. Many of the Swiss players fell to their knees inside the center circle.

Sergio Busquets and Rodri failed to convert two of the first three shots in the shootout for Spain, which has missed its last five penalties in normal time — including twice at Euro 2020.

Switzerland made all five in a shootout win over World Cup champion France in the round of 16 but failed with three of its four attempts this time. Fabian Schar and Manuel Akanji had shots saved by Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon, while Ruben Vargas hit the ball over the crossbar.

That gave Oyarzabal the chance to win it for Spain and he scored past goalkeeper Yann Sommer, whose penalty save on France striker Kylian Mbappe's shot on Monday had put Switzerland into the quarterfinals at the tournament for the first time.

“Penalties are a bit 50-50," said Switzerland captain Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored his team's goal in regulation time. "I think we just lacked a little bit of luck today.”

After the wild fluctuations of “Manic Monday,” when the teams won chaotic games in the round of 16 that both needed extra time and featured a combined 14 goals, their quarterfinal match was perhaps unsurprisingly a more labored affair punctuated by big moments.

Among them was a red card in the 78th minute for Switzerland midfielder Remo Freuler, whose studs connected with the ankle of substitute Gerard Moreno in a sliding challenge.

Yet a rearguard effort — requiring a string of diving saves by Sommer and a number of last-ditch blocks by sprawling defenders — kept the Spanish at bay in the extra 30 minutes that were played almost entirely in Switzerland's half. A crowd made up of mostly Russian spectators was fully behind Switzerland's energy-sapped players, even to the extent of jeering the Spanish team when it had the ball.

Moreno, in particular, squandered four chances with poor finishing or the acrobatics of Sommer, though the striker made amends by converting one of Spain’s kicks in the shootout.

In normal time, the Swiss initially missed the energy and authority of suspended captain Granit Xhaka, whose replacement — Denis Zakaria — had the misfortune of scoring the 10th own-goal of the tournament when he sliced the ball into his own net in the eighth minute. Jordi Alba sent in the shot after latching onto a corner from the right that had sailed over everyone’s heads in the area.

Zakaria looked distraught and was consoled by his teammates.

A defensive mix-up brought about Shaqiri’s equalizer in the 68th, which came just as Switzerland had started to threaten more.

Aymeric Laporte came across to cover a pass over the top but touched the ball onto the leg of his center back partner, Pau Torres. Freuler pounced on the ball and laid it off to Shaqiri, whose first-time shot crawled into the bottom corner.

Switzerland bowed in the same stadium where the team was eliminated from the 2018 World Cup. Three years ago, the Swiss lost to Sweden 1-0 in the round of 16.

Spain will play either Belgium or Italy in the semifinals on Tuesday at Wembley Stadium in London.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

Steve Douglas, The Associated Press

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