Defending champion Italy knocked out of Euro 2024 by Switzerland

Defending champion Italy crashed out of the European Championship after losing to Switzerland 2-0 in the last 16 on Saturday.

Goals in each half from Remo Freuler and Ruben Vargas gave the Swiss their first win over their southern neighbour for 31 years and set up a quarterfinal against England or Slovakia in Dusseldorf on July 6.

Italy’s elimination means the titleholder has gone out in the last 16 for the third successive Euro after Portugal in 2021 and Spain in 2016.

Switzerland hadn’t beaten Italy since 1993, and notched only a ninth win from 62 attempts.

“We showed from the first second that we really wanted to win this game. The spirit is incredible,” Switzerland midfielder Fabian Riedler said. “Everyone is happy. Everyone runs for the other one.”

His team dominated in terms of possession, shots, attacks and passes.

By the time Italy responded in the second half, the aggressive Swiss defence was able to deal with it. Coach Murat Yakin’s gameplan worked to perfection and he repaid the faith his federation showed him when there were calls for him to go in November.

“Football gives so much to us, gives so much to us in our lives. I don’t know how to pay back football for everything it’s given me and my life,” Yakin said. “I’ll always remember tonight.”

All Italy counterpart Luciano Spalletti could do was put his hands out in exasperation on the sideline.

“The team were timid in terms of the intensity of the game. We didn’t do a good job. We weren’t able to maintain a high level of intensity,” Spalletti said.

Freuler deservedly broke the deadlock in the 37th minute when he set up Vargas’ cross with his first touch and smashed it in with his next.

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Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who had earlier denied Breel Embolo in a one-on-one, produced a flying save to deflect Fabian Riedler’s free kick onto the post before the break.

But the second half had barely started before Vargas curled a shot from the edge of the penalty area inside the top right corner.

Italy was immediately more proactive and Switzerland defender Fabian Schär was relieved to see his attempted headed clearance rebound off the post minutes later.

Fans tried to get a Mexican wave going through the Olympiastadion but the Italian fans were not in the mood.

Their team pushed forward in search of a way back only to find none. Gianluca Scamacca went closest when he hit the post but looked offside in any case.

Spalletti spoke of his team’s “beautiful suits” before the Spain game, but this time, after substitute Mattia Zaccagni’s last-second equalizer against Croatia, he was unable to pull a rabbit out of Italy’s hat.

“If we failed, we failed. And we failed because of my team selection. And in terms of the way I conducted myself, it’s never down to the players,” Spalletti said.

Germany beats Denmark to make quarterfinals

Germany went from despair to delight in the space of a minute as a couple of big video review calls set the host nation on its way to a storm-affected 2-0 win over Denmark and a place in the European Championship quarterfinals on Saturday.

Denmark defender Joachim Andersen had a goal disallowed for the narrowest of offside decisions in the 50th minute, before giving away a penalty for handball on Germany’s very next attack.

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Kai Havertz converted the spot kick and Jamal Musiala added a second goal in the 68th of a match that was suspended for about 25 minutes in the first half because of a bout of thunder and lightning that sparked torrential rain at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion.

Jamal Musiala celebrates scoring Germany’s second goal in a 2-0 victory over Denmark at the UEFA EURO 2024 round of 16 match in Dortmund, Germany. (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

It was Germany’s first win in the knockout stage of a major tournament since 2016 and another sign of the team’s growing belief that will excite the nation after years of underperformance on the highest stage.

The Germans will play Spain or Georgia next and became the second team to advance from the round of 16, after Switzerland beat defending champion Italy 2-0 earlier Saturday.

“We’re going to Berlin,” sang Germany’s fans — in reference to the location of the Euro 2024 final on July 14 — in the giant South Stand late in the final minutes of what proved to be a dramatic occasion, as much because of the weather as what happened on the field.

After huge claps of thunder and lightning, the referee took the players off the field around the 35th minute and there was about a 20-minute delay, during which fans in the front rows got battered by torrential rain and sleet. The players re-emerged and undertook warmups before play resumed.

The Danes weathered their own storm early in the match and, against the run of play, thought they took the lead when Andersen hooked home a shot from close range. The Video Assistant Referee spotted an offside in the buildup, a free kick was awarded and the ball was played downfield, leading to a cross by David Raum hitting Andersen’s outstretched right arm. The VAR got involved again and a penalty awarded.

Havertz converted and it was all Germany thereafter, with Musiala racing clear to score his third goal of the tournament, tied for the most.

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