Xherdan Shaqiri has long been the talisman of the Swiss National Team. He has popped up with commanding performances and timely goals on numerous occasions for Switzerland, and he did it again tonight in their heartbreaking loss to Spain in the Euro 2020 quarterfinals.
Shaqiri, who was captaining his country for the first time in a competitive match, capitalized on a defensive error by Spain to level the score in the 68th minute in St. Petersburg. It was a case of the diminutive attacker being in the right place at the right time, and it gave his team a real chance to pull off the upset.
Unfortunately, a red card for Remo Freuler just nine minutes later forced the Swiss to abandon any hopes of nicking a winner, and Shaqiri was substituted shortly thereafter. Despite the setback and a near-constant Spanish onslaught, the plucky 10-man side did manage to hold on and force extra time and then penalty kicks.
Switzerland’s previous win over France came via a penalty shootout where they went a perfect five for five from the spot, but it’s notoriously difficult to win multiple shootouts in a single tourney. Sadly for Shaqiri, he could do nothing but helplessly look on as this proved true once again. Switzerland missed their second, third, and fourth attempts, and ultimately lost the shootout 3-1.
Though one’s heart goes out to Shaqiri, the match did end with a touching moment as Thiago Alcântara approached the visibly devastated Ruben Vargas, the Swiss midfielder who missed the penultimate penalty attempt, to console him. It was a lovely display of humanity and sportsmanship from the Spanish midfielder and it earned him admiration from many fans on social media.
Thiago, who was a 113th-minute sub in the Spanish victory, will now move on to face Italy in the first semi-final on Tuesday.