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The best day of international football

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Given that the madness started thanks to a goalkeeper, it was logical that it was a goalkeeper who called down the curtain at the end of the day. When Yann Sommer saved Kylian Mbappé’s penalty in Bucharest, Unai Simon’s mistake of nearly 220 minutes of football earlier felt like another life.

Between those two incidents, Croatia and Switzerland rallied 3-1 against to bring things even at 3-3 each against much more imaginary opponents in Spain and France, respectively. However, the former was impressed by La Roja’s power line in overtime, while the latter managed to outlive Paul Pogba and company. to get a victory in the penalty shootout against the world champions.


The round of 16 tie between Croatia and Spain became the first Euro game to feature eight different scorers. César Azpilicueta, 31, appeared in the opposite half to score a classic number nine header for his first goal for Spain. Álvaro Morata scored a goal full of narrative and redemption and perseverance and all the other things that good stories are made of.

For Croatia, it was a kind of passing of the torch. Luka Modric was outstanding as always but Mateo Kovacic perhaps showed that the future is now. Backed by scorers Miraslav Orsic and Mario Pasalic, Croatia looked like a severe threat after Simon kicked them in the butt. However, in line with the general trend of redemption, the Spanish goalkeeper made two outstanding saves to keep things level before Morata took over.

An end-to-end match decided in the end simply by who had the most legs and depth to carry on. Perhaps last year, Croatia would have won this one without the previous boring and congested football season. In the end, the youth of Spain came out ahead: Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal made the difference from the bench. Questions remain as to whether this team can make it all the way in this tournament, but one thing is for sure: they are guaranteed entertainment.


“He’s a player when he struts, and boy does he strut tonight.” This comment on Pogba after his volley goal against Swansea in his first season in England comes to mind whenever he takes a long diagonal to put Mbappé in his way or when he throws a shot over the top.

It is a pity that France turned out the way it did; it might have been Paul Pogba’s summer of vindication if they had. He was the best player on the field by one mile of field and, more tellingly, the best French player on the field by two miles of field.

The 2018 World Cup champions did not look imperious in the group stage and were explicitly tame against Switzerland. Mbappé clearly didn’t have his shooting boots on, but the confusing lineup with Lenglet and Rabiot being used as square pegs in round holes was more decisive.

Despite Didier Deschamps’ best efforts to turn France into a boring mechanical machine, they were entertained. After Switzerland exposed their weak low blocking, it was the maverick performances of Pogba and Kingsley Coman that were their best shot at victory.

Hugo Lloris made a great penalty save to keep France in the game in the second half ensuring he wasn’t the only goalkeeper of the day not producing a headline-grabbing suffix. Luck (deservedly) was not on France’s side and Switzerland did what it had to do to take advantage of that.


With 14 goals, minus the penalty shoot-out, throughout 240 minutes of soccer, the fans were like children in a sugar rush after an unsupervised visit to a candy store. June 28, 2021 could perhaps be considered the best day in international football (or any other).

Both games were full of mistakes and moments of sheer genius. Soccer was played, intentionally or not, with total abandon. The lack of time to incorporate tactical nous makes international football much more entertaining even for the casual viewer and there can be no better publicity for the sport than yesterday’s events.

England-Germany collide later tonight. The winners of yesterday’s games meet in the quarterfinals on the same day that two favorites, Belgium and Italy, meet. It’s safe to say that Euro 2020 took a while to warm up, but the party is great now. One can only hope that this glory day in soccer is a kickoff and not an outlier.

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