Euro 2024 Daily: Penalty joy for England, heartbreak for Swiss

Euro 2024 has reached the end of the quarterfinals! Our daily files give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what to watch for and best reads.

Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Germany.

The lead: Shootout loss to England a cruel end for Switzerland

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — England have reached the semifinals for a third time in their last four tournaments, but Switzerland fell agonisingly short of reaching the last four of a major finals for the first time in their history. The identity of their conquerors here will have felt particularly tough for their captain, Granit Xhaka.

England beat Marat Yakin’s side 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Dusseldorf as the Three Lions advance to Wednesday’s semifinal against either Netherlands or Turkey.

Xhaka was something of a laughing stock in the Premier League at one point over the course of his seven years at Arsenal. The midfielder was viewed by many as a walking yellow card, with individual errors costing his team goals. The nadir came when he told his own fans to “f— off” as they jeered him at Emirates Stadium in October 2019.

Xhaka was stripped of the captaincy by then-manager Unai Emery as a result, and he later admitted his bags were packed for a move away from the club before Mikel Arteta convinced him to stay.

Arteta reinvigorated his career — giving him licence to play as a more attacking No. 8 — to the extent that his departure to Bayer Leverkusen last summer for £21.4 million felt like something of a loss for the club as well as the right time personally for a new chapter.

Xhaka came into this game as an unbeaten Bundesliga champion and shook off an adductor issue to play the entire 120 minutes in Düsseldorf. In some senses, he was the most influential player on the pitch.

Nobody had more touches than Xhaka’s 140, his 121 passes attempted and 114 completed were also game highs. Such an assured display helped Switzerland gain a measure of control in the second half and look the more threatening side in extra-time.

But his 130th international appearance ended in defeat by the finest of margins, a penalty shootout loss which leaves Switzerland still waiting to go beyond the last eight of a major tournament. They have only ever won three of their 28 meetings with England. Xhaka won’t be alone in wanting to see the back of them in future. — James Olley

Sights and sounds around Euro 2024

France’s pre-penalty pep talk

France won their quarterfinal against Portugal on penalties in Friday’s late game, and perhaps it was the words shared in their pre-shootout huddle that inspired them to seal a place in the semifinals.

As Les Bleus gathered together just before the spot kicks began in Hamburg, coach Didier Deschamps addressed his players. In everyone’s minds the nightmare of Lusail, where France lost the World Cup final to Argentina on penalties 18 months ago, was still very much present. Not wanting to relive that scenario, Deschamps chose his words carefully: “Guys, let’s stay calm and composed. That’s all I’m asking you for.”

After Deschamps, it was captain Kylian Mbappé’s turn to say something to the group. And again, he found the right words.

“Guys, don’t forget, it’s just a technical skill, easy,” said the striker, who missed the decisive penalty in the shootout loss to Switzerland at Euro 2020. “We have worked on it, it’s a technical skill. Forget everything around it. It’s you and the goalkeeper. It’s a technical skill. Let’s go! Regardless of what happens, we stay together!”

But maybe the best line came right at the end from Marcus Thuram. The forward, reminding his teammates of who was defending their goal, shouted: “Guys, we have Mike [Maignan] eh!”

France went on to score all five of their spot kicks and win their first shootout since the 1998 World Cup. — Julien Laurens

Gündoğan reaches across the divide

Even after Germany suffered a painful exit to Spain on Friday, with La Roja reaching the semifinals with a 2-1 extra-time win against the Euro 2024 hosts, midfielder Ilkay Gündoğan was most concerned over the fitness of Pedri and sought out news about his Barcelona teammate after the match.

Pedri was forced off after just eight minutes of the quarterfinal with a knee injury after a challenge from Toni Kroos.

While Gündoğan was addressing the media in the mixed zone, dealing with the fallout to Germany’s departure from their home tournament, Ferran Torres, another Barça player, walked behind him. Breaking away from answering questions being put to him by the media in German and English, Gündoğan grabbed Torres to ask him in Spanish how Pedri was doing.

“Pfffff,” replied Torres. “We will have to see tomorrow.”

Spain confirmed on Saturday that Pedri suffered a grade 2 sprain to his left knee. They have not confirmed how long Pedri will be sidelined for, but sources said he won’t feature again in Germany, even if La Roja make the final on July 14, with his expected layoff time around one month.

Kroos, for whom defeat meant this match was the last of his career, has since issued an apology. — Sam Marsden

Like father, like son in Stuttgart

Spain midfielder Mikel Merino repeated a unique piece of family history after scoring his dramatic 119th-minute winner in Stuttgart.

Merino, an 80th-minute substitute, sealed Spain’s victory with a header from Dani Olmo’s cross before running to the corner flag and dancing around it. Nothing unusual in that, you might think. But, by a strange quirk of fate, Merino’s father, Ángel, performed the same celebration after scoring in the same stadium 33 years earlier.

“This stadium must have something that gives us luck,” Mikel Merino said after Spain’s quarterfinal win. “My father scored here. It is a special stadium for us.”

Merino Sr., who made almost 500 senior appearances as a player without being called up by Spain, said he wanted to give Mikel a “big kiss” after replicating the way he celebrated scoring for Osasuna in a UEFA Cup tie against VfB Stuttgart in 1991.

“The point was to make me look bad,” Merino Sr. jokingly told Cadena SER. “If he had already surpassed me, now I don’t have the exclusivity of the Stuttgart goal, either. Now I just have to be quiet and give him a big kiss, because he deserves it.” — Mark Ogden

Stat of the day

The quarterfinal against Switzerland was Gareth Southgate’s 100th match as England manager (W61-D23-L16). His win percentage is now 61%, trailing only Fabio Capello (67%; 28-8-6 from 2008-12) and 1966 World Cup-winning coach Alf Ramsey (61.1%; 69-27-17 from 1963-74) for the best by an England manager. — ESPN Stats & Information

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Wild scenes in Wembley as England win on penalties

Check out these wild celebrations at BOXPARK Wembley after England beat Switzerland on penalties at Euro 2024.

Betting tip (odds via ESPN BET)

Spain are rightly favourites at +155 to beat France in their semifinal next Tuesday. They have scored 11 goals at Euro 2024 so far, but they haven’t come up against a defence like France’s yet. Les Bleus have conceded just one goal in Germany this summer, and that was a Robert Lewandowski penalty in a 1-1 draw against Poland. Sure, they have only scored two goals themselves, but with their tournament pedigree they could be worth a look at +205. — ESPN

One big read

For a player who has made a career out of being the master of calm, Toni Kroos would never have expected it all to end in chaos, but after 833 games for club and country, the final act of the Germany midfielder’s career was played out in a frenzy of fouls, missed chances, dramatic late goals, rejected penalty appeals and a referee who issued 16 yellow cards and one red.

Germany’s dream of winning Euro 2024 as host nation came to a bitter end in Stuttgart on Friday as Mikel Merino’s 119th-minute header sealed a 2-1 quarterfinal win for Spain. Luis de la Fuente’s team marches on and will play a semifinal in Munich on Tuesday, but it is the end of the road for Germany and also for Kroos, the Real Madrid midfielder who had hoped to bring the curtain down on his international career just as he did his club days by signing off as a European champion.

– Ogden: Kroos’ career ends in chaos as Germany can’t intimidate Spain

And finally …

There was a recognisable face bouncing up and down among Spain’s travelling support in Stuttgart on Friday: Villarreal midfielder Dani Parejo.

Parejo, who has been capped four times by Spain, was spotted by his fellow fans of La Roja and supporters soon gathered around him.

“Bounce, Parejo, bounce,” they chanted, to which he duly obliged.

“I’m here for an unforgettable experience with my kids,” he told Relevo. “I’m still on holiday before preseason begins. We are having a great time so far and hoping things go well.”

Parejo was then pushed for a prediction before Spain’s 2-1 win over Germany knocked the hosts out — and he was spot on.

“I’m going for 2-1 Spain,” he said. Spain will hope he’s predicting them to beat France in Tuesday’s semifinal, too. — Sam Marsden

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