Switzerland knocks out defending champion Italy and advances to the Euro 2024 quarterfinals

BERLIN (AP) — 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 neighbor for 31 years and set up a quarterfinal against England or Slovakia in Düsseldorf 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 defense 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.

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.


AP Euro 2024: