The European Championship crafted a pair of gems on Monday.
In the opening game, Spain beat Croatia, 5-3, in overtime but not before blowing a 3-1 lead with six minutes to play and conceding the equalizer in stoppage time.
How could France-Switzerland match that? Les Bleus blew a 3-1 lead of their own in the last 10 minutes, conceding the equalizer in the 90th minute.
But if France hoped it would be rescued in overtime like Spain was, it wasn't to be. After the match in Bucharest ended 3-3 after 120 minutes, Switzerland knocked off the reigning world championships in the shootout, 5-4, when French star Kylian Mbappe had the 10th and final attempt saved by keeper Yann Sommer.
The eight goals in Spain-Croatia were the most in a game since nine in the semifinals of the first European Championship in 1960 at the Parc des Princes in Paris, where host France lost to Yugoslavia, 5-4 after leading 3-1 and 4-2.
The 14 goals were the most scored on a day of knockout play at the European Championship since the 1960 semifinals when the two games produced 12 goals.
Monday, June 28
Spain 5 Croatia 3. (Goals: Sarabia 38, Azpilicueta 57, Ferran Torres 76, Morata 100, Oyarzabal 103; own goal 20, Orsic 85, Pasalic 90+2.)
The hero for Spain was the much-maligned Alvaro Morata, whose family had been the target of threats for his poor play early in the tournament, where Spain opened with a 0-0 tie against Sweden and 1-1 tie with Poland before exploding for five goals in consecutive games (5-0 over Slovakia and 5-3 over Croatia).
"In the last few weeks we've seen things that haven't been nice for me, but the majority of Spain has got on board," Morata said. "The goal is for my wife, my kids, my family and everyone who supports me. Often you have to go through difficult moments, to suffer, to enjoy the good moments."
Morata broke a 3-3 tie in overtime with a thunderous side volley.
"I don't think there's a single coach in the world who doesn't admire, value and praise a player like Alvaro Morata," said Spain coach Luis Enrique. "He's able to give you continuity, he defends as if he were a center back, he dominates in the air, he scores goals, he's strong. We have to value a lot having Alvaro in the national team."
Monday, June 28
Switzerland 3 France 3 (Switzerland wins 5-4 on penalties). (Goals: Seferovic 15, 81 Gavranovic 90; Benzema 57, 59, Pogba 75.)
Like Spain, Switzerland came in for heavy criticism earlier in the tournament. After the 1-1 tie with Wales and 3-0 loss to Italy, Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic asked fans for support.
“Football players and coaches have feelings, worries, fears and joys like everyone else. We are just as vulnerable,” the 57-year-old coach, in charge since 2014, wrote in a Swiss newspaper, saying his player need “the support of all of you. Your solidarity. Your positivity."
The Nati looked to be in command of its match against France, taking a deserved lead in the first half and appearing to be on the verge of inflicting a knockout blow in the 54th minute when it was awarded a penalty kick. But French keeper Hugo Lloris stopped Ricardo Rodriguez's shot, and within five minutes Les Bleus were ahead 2-1 on a pair of Karim Benzema goals.
Paul Pogba had been brilliant for France all game, and he made it 3-1 in the 75th minute, but he allowed a crucial turnover late in the game, allowing the Swiss to equalize in the 90th minute through Mario Gavranovic.
"Nobody believed in us any more at that stage," said Sommer, who was also on the Swiss teams at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups and Euro 2016 during which they lost in the round of 16 each time. "We felt they had become a bit complacent and maybe thought they had already won it. So we used that to our advantage."
Tuesday, June 29
England-Germany Noon ET. (ESPN, PrendeTV)
Sweden-Ukraine 3 pm, ET (ESPN, TUDN, UniMas)
Best day of football! Celebrate the game of the world!