Didier Deschamps speaks!
Nick Ames was the lucky guy who got to witness that historic night in the flesh. Here’s his report, straight from the National Arena Bucharest. Congratulations to Switzerland, who after this win for the ages face Spain in Saint Petersburg on Friday, and commiserations to the world champions, who’ll always have
Paris Moscow. Thanks for reading this MBM. Nighty night!
There always has to be a fall guy in a penalty shoot-out, so here’s some sympathy for poor Kylian Mbappe. “It was cruel to give the fifth penalty kick to a very young player like Mbappé,” begins Elise Melaugh. “It was too much pressure on a young man who has not enough years to have a history of success behind him with which to comfort himself. I hope he doesn’t lose confidence in himself which could blight his future.”
Kári Tulinius adds: “It’s odd to feel sorry for a World Cup winner and a multi-millionaire, but watching Mbappé walk off the field I felt real pity for him. What an awful tournament he’s had. I hope he’ll have good people around him this summer.”
“That, ladies and gentlemen, is what world champions do.” Robert Heffernan there, thumbing a nose and flinging your poor old MBM hack’s earlier words back at him. Yep. Thing is, it’s now easy to forget the strut and swagger France had rediscovered during that passage of play, and it only goes to further illustrate how outrageous, how outstanding, Switzerland’s comeback was. To turn that around when all looked lost ... it’s not as though they’ve done this against Basingstoke Town. In conclusion: Pulitzer, please!
France walk off, bemused to a man. All the colour has drained from Didier Deschamps’ face. It may take them a while to process this one. “I’m glad they got punished for that,” says Roy Keane on ITV. “You can have all the quality in the world, but if you don’t turn up with the proper attitude, it’s hard to switch it back on. And Switzerland have been absolutely brilliant.”
Switzerland frolic across Bucharest’s National Arena in the grand style. Here’s to them enjoying every minute of this sensational victory. It’s one for the ages. An instant Euro classic. They went toe-to-toe with the world champions, and didn’t let up for a minute, even when all looked lost. The early blows of the second half - the penalty miss, then France’s imperious three-goal burst - would have killed off most teams. Not this one. What a response. What moxie!
Switzerland thoroughly deserve to go through. They performed to the best of their abilities from beginning to end. France were superb as well ... but only during the second half. After their three-goal salvo, they took their foot off the gas fatally, allowing the Swiss to force extra time with one of the great smash and grabs. Switzerland have been excellent to a man, with captain Granit Xhaka playing the match of his life.
RESULT: France 3-3 Switzerland (Switzerland win 5-4 on penalties)
As Sommer disappears under a pile of gleeful team-mates, Mbappe trudges off. It certainly wasn’t his tournament, and it’s ended in the most painful way possible. What a comeback by Switzerland, who have edged the world champions out of Euro 2020 after a classic encounter that ebbed and flowed from the get-go!
Switzerland are through! France are out!
PENALTIES: Switzerland 5-4 France. Mbappe goes top left ... but doesn’t quite catch it. Sommer gets across to claw away, and Switzerland have shocked the world champions!
PENALTIES: Switzerland 5-4 France. Mehmedi sends Lloris the wrong way, tucking confidently into the bottom right. France have to score to stay in the Euros ... and it’s Mbappe!
PENALTIES: Switzerland 4-4 France. Kimpembe goes top right, and roofs it in style. Sommer guesses the right way, but was never getting to it. And so effectively it’s now sudden death!
PENALTIES: Switzerland 4-3 France. Vargas whips into the bottom left ... but Lloris got a big hand on it, and will be disappointed not to have kept it out. Just enough power to get past the keeper. But that was close.
PENALTIES: Switzerland 3-3 France. Thuram goes for the bottom left. Sommer guesses correctly, but can’t reach. Good penalty, tucked right in the corner.
PENALTIES: Switzerland 3-2 France. Akanji stutters, giving Lloris the eyes. He rolls into the bottom left, with the keeper having moved the other way. Calm as you like!
PENALTIES: Switzerland 2-2 France. Giroud takes a short run-up and ... sends Sommer the wrong way. Into the bottom right it goes.
PENALTIES: Switzerland 2-1 France. Schar goes top right, and calmly flips it in there! Lloris went the wrong way.
PENALTIES: Switzerland 1-1 France. Pogba goes for the top left ... and sends a missile in there. Unstoppable!
PENALTIES: Switzerland 1-0 France. Gavranovic whips into the top left. Lloris no chance.
Both teams get in their pre-shootout huddles. The Swiss look much happier to be here right now. Especially when Xhaka wins the coin toss, and opts for his team to go first. Here we go!
Pre-penalty postbag. “Are we ready to forgive Switzerland for this yet?” wonders Niall Mullen.
Heh. Yeah, they’ve probably paid it back, whatever happens from here on in. Good luck, everyone!
EXTRA TIME, FULL TIME: France 3-3 Switzerland
Nope. Xhaka balloons it harmlessly over the bar, and it’s to penalties we go!
ET 30 min: Switzerland launch it long. Rabiot and Gavranovic compete under it, the former shoving the latter in the back. Free kick, 25 yards out. One last chance. Can Switzerland land the killer blow?
ET 29 min: From the resulting free kick, Akanji aims a blooter goalwards from the best part of 30 yards. Nope. France go up the other end, Kimpembe curling in from the left. Giroud rises high, aiming a header towards the top left. It’s a soft looper, and easily claimed by Sommer.
ET 28 min: Pogba knocks Xhaka to the ground. Xkaha takes the opportunity to have a quick lie down.
ET 27 min: Rabiot’s poor backwards header nearly opens the door for Mehmedi, who latches onto the ball, 40 yards out. There’s nobody in attendance, though, and the chance to counter is gone. A lot of tired players out there.
ET 26 min: France hog the ball. They look the more likely to find a dramatic winner.
ET 24 min: Pogba, in the centre circle, plays a first-time volleyed pass with the outside of his right foot, creaming down the left for Thuram, who cuts back for Giroud. His shot twangs off Mbappe and out for a goal kick. What an absurd pass by Pogba! As good as you’ll see all month.
ET 22 min: Thuram wins a corner down the left. France take it quickly and nearly catch Switzerland napping with a short one, but Vargas is quickly across to blooter clear, just in time.
ET 21 min: Coman can’t continue. He’s replaced by Thuram.
ET 20 min: Coman spins infield from the left and shuttles the ball to Pogba, who slips a pass down the channel for Mbappe. He’s clear in the box! But he opts to take the shot with his left, from a tight angle, and the extra time required allows Sommer to close down the angle. Mbappe slices dismally wide left. What a chance!
ET 19 min: Kante battles through four or five separate challenges before feeding Coman down the left. Coman pulls back for Mbappe on the edge of the box. Mbappe drags his shot across Sommer and well wide right.
ET 18 min: Pogba strips Mehmedi in the centre circle and advances on the Swiss box. Akanji comes across to clean him out. A yellow card for the team.
ET 16 min: Mbappe advances on the Swiss box, but that man Xhaka steps in to intercept. The Swiss captain has been excellent.
Switzerland get the second half of extra time underway. “I thought the Swiss might roll over when they went behind. I did not bank in them getting back into this.” Sean Boiling there, saying it because somebody had to.
EXTRA TIME, HALF TIME: France 3-3 Switzerland
We’re 15 minutes away from the first penalty shoot-out of Euro 2020. “After watching the knockout matches so far, I think Scotland did the right thing by not qualifying,” writes Simon McMahon. “Tremendous achievement by Steve Clarke and the Scottish lads.”
ET 15 min: Vargas worms his way down the left, then cuts back for Xhaka, who thinks about shooting, but opts to scoop towards Mbabu on the right instead. For once, his radar is a little bit off. Much of Xhaka’s quarterbacking has been superb this evening.
ET 13 min: Vargas grooves down the left and wins a corner. He takes it himself. Some head tennis. France struggle to clear, and Mehmedi hoicks high and wide from the edge of the box.
ET 12 min: Coman is good to continue ... as is Xhaka, who takes an accidental whack on the ankle in a 50-50 with Pogba.
ET 11 min: Sissoko sends a shot, from 25 yards, 25 miles into orbit.
ET 10 min: Xhaka nearly releases Vargas with another raking pass from deep. Varane comes across to cover.
ET 9 min: The physio wants to hook Coman, but the player doesn’t seem to want to leave. He wags his finger at the doctor. A trenchant back and forth takes place.
ET 8 min: Coman cuts in from the left. He flashes a shot into the side netting. It looks like being his last act of the evening, because he’s hurt his knee ... or maybe tweaked a hamstring.
ET 7 min: Nah. How could we think such a thing? Mbabu works his way down the right and enters the box. His low fizzing cross is meant for Gavranovic at the far post, six yards out. Varane hooks clear, just in time.
ET 6 min: No hat-trick for Benzema, and there won’t be one for Seferovic either. He’s replaced by Schar. A sign that Switzerland might be playing for penalties?
ET 5 min: Nothing comes of the corner.
ET 4 min: Coman bursts down the left and scoops back from the byline. Pavard tries to control on the penalty spot, but the ball won’t come down. He steers it towards the top left. Sommer parries spectacularly. Corner.
ET 3 min: Benzema, France’s two-goal hero, picks up a knock and is replaced by Giroud.
ET 2 min: The heroic Gavranovic saunters down the right and wins the first corner of extra time. Mehmedi meets it at the near post, and flashes his header straight at Lloris. “Wilson is doing fine,” reports Kári Tulinius in double-quick time.
France get the first half of extra time underway. Not long after, Pavard is booked for attempting to rearrange the fruit in Mehmedi’s bowl. He’ll be out of the quarter final against Spain, should France make it.
Well, that flew by, huh? The Swiss should have gone two up. France, suddenly woken from their slumber, looked to have swatted them aside with some of the most fluent football of the entire tournament, suddenly every inch the world champions. And then the Swiss, refusing to accept their fate, came back at them with a jaw-dropping double whammy. Mehmedi and Coman then took turns to nearly win it for their team in the last minute of added time. More please! “Has anybody checked in on Jonathan Wilson?” worries Johan Sjöstedt. “Regarding levels of defending and the like.”
FULL TIME: France 3-3 Switzerland
It had to end like that, didn’t it? What a game! And we’re going to get another 30 minutes of it. The French might not agree, but truly we are blessed. The football gods are on one today!
90 min +4: Xhaka hoicks forward for Mehmedi, who very nearly brings the pass under control. Not quite. He’d have been one on one! France go straight up the other end, Sissoko driving down the right and finding Coman, level with the left-hand post, 12 yards out. Coman chests down and creams a rising shot off the junction of bar and right-hand post!
90 min +3: For a second, it looks like Kante, shimmying down the left, will feed Mbappe in the middle for a simple tap-in. But he can’t sort his feet out, and Mbabu shepherds him away.
90 min +2: France look a wee bit stunned, as well they might!
90 min +1: The first of four added minutes is taken up with Swiss celebrations. There may well be some more extra time tacked on.
GOAL! France 3-3 Switzerland (Gavranovic 90)
Pogba is dispossessed in the centre circle. Xhaka passes down the middle for Gavranovic, who turns Kimpembe on the edge of the box before firing into the bottom left! Lloris had no chance!
89 min: Xhaka quarterbacks from deep, finding Mehmedi to the right of the French six-yard box. Mehmedi’s header across goal is easily claimed by Lloris. But no matter, because ...
88 min: France shore it up by replacing Griezmann with Sissoko. Just after the restart, Coman is booked for clattering into Mbabu.
87 min: Mbabu tries to work his way down the right again. Rabiot slams the door shut and wins a free kick. The clock runs down. Before the game can restart, poor old Rodriguez is replaced by Mehmedi.
85 min: Switzerland put the ball in the net, but it’s immediately flagged offside. Rodriguez strides down the inside left and shoots low. The ball’s deflected towards Gavranovic, on the left-hand corner of the six-yard box. He spins and pokes the ball across Lloris and into the bottom right ... but the French back line had pushed out just in time. Wow!
83 min: France respond by slowing it down a little over a throw. But the attacking instincts quickly kick in again, and the ball’s shuttled back to Rabiot, who skelps it goalwards from 25 yards. It’s always heading over the bar.
GOAL! France 3-2 Switzerland (Seferovic 81)
Hold on, though! Space for Mbabu down the right. He crosses. Seferovic gets ahead of Kimpembe and Varane, and flashes another unstoppable header past Lloris, this time into the top left!
80 min: Another double change for Switzerland. Off go Embolo - who was excellent in the first half - and Zuber; on come Vargas and Fassnacht.
78 min: Rabiot sends Coman into space down the left. Coman’s low cross is snaffled by Sommer, who you sense will be very busy for the next quarter of an hour.
77 min: Coman, in a similar position to Pogba a couple of minutes ago, tries to repeat the trick. A decent effort, but one claimed well by Sommer.
76 min: Xhaka is booked for incessant yammer.
GOAL! France 3-1 Switzerland (Pogba 75)
God but this is a sensational goal. Benzema, on the edge of the Swiss D, aims a curler towards the top right. It’s blocked. The ball comes back to Pogba, a wee bit further out. He tries for the same corner ... and whips it into the postage stamp, gracefully and at speed. He strikes a pose. He deserves to vogue. That was superb, and he’s been fantastic.
74 min: Coman has a whack from distance. Straight at Sommer, who smothers.
73 min: Switzerland make a double change, replacing Shaqiri and Widmer with Gavranovic and Mbabu.
71 min: ... nothing occurs. Switzerland counter. Zuber drives into acres down the left, only to cross to nobody in particular. France mop up. “This match is turning into a real fondue-zy of a clash,” quips Grant Tenille, who is here all week. Try the Toblerone (but don’t dip it into the cheese).
70 min: France are beginning to flow now. Pogba has a speculative look from distance, the shot breaking wide right. A corner on the right leads to a corner from the left, from which ...
69 min: A simple long ball down the middle nearly undoes Switzerland. Widmer heads it back to his keeper, without realising Sommer had raced out of his box to clear! He’s so fortunate that the ball bounces wide right of the unguarded goal. So close to a farcical own goal. Nothing comes of the resulting corner.
68 min: Pogba sends a delicious ball down the inside-right channel for Mbappe, who very nearly controls and spins clear. Elvedi does extremely well to do just enough to fend France’s superstar off.
66 min: Shaqiri floats the free kick to the far post. Seferovic sidefoots the dropping ball wide left from six yards! The flag goes up for offside, though had Seferovic found the net, there’s a fair chance that decision would have been overruled. Therefore: what a miss!
65 min: Shaqiri dances in from the right wing and is sent crashing to the ground by Rabiot. A free kick and a chance to swing the ball into the French box, where plenty of bedlam has already occurred this evening. Can the Swiss find a way back?
64 min: The Swiss look a little deflated right now, and who can blame them after that triple whammy of misery? How quickly the rug can be pulled from under your feet in knockout football.
63 min: Mbappe wants some of this hot goal action. He drives into the box from the left, but tackles himself when trying to make space for a sidefoot curler.
62 min: Rodriguez, whose head must be swimming right now, comes through the back of Griezmann and goes into the book. He might have been working a few things out while making that challenge.
60 min: That, ladies and gentlemen, is what world champions do. For the record, there was one minute and 42 seconds between Benzema’s two goals.
GOAL! France 2-1 Switzerland (Benzema 59)
What a turnaround! Griezmann and Mbappe one-two down the left, having been sent into a pocket of space after some good work by Pogba and Coman. Griezmann dinks a cross to the far post. Benzema rises to head home from a yard out! Penny for the thoughts of Ricardo Rodriguez, who missed that penalty for a 2-0 lead just two minutes and 19 seconds ago.
GOAL! France 1-1 Switzerland (Benzema 57)
France sicken Switzerland now! They snaffle a loose ball in midfield. Griezmann works it infield from the right. Mbappe slips a ball down the inside right channel for Benzema, who somehow controls it with his heel, dragging it in front of him, over Sommer, and into the net!
56 min: France nearly sicken Switzerland with a rapier thrust. Pogba sashays across the face of the Swiss box, right to left, then lays off for Mbappe, who opens his body and curls towards the bottom right. Inches wide!
55 min: Rodriguez takes, with no conviction whatsoever. He aims for the bottom left. Lloris reads his intention, and parries the weak spot kick, before flopping on the ball, then springing up to celebrate wildly. The captain keeps France in Euro 2020!
Penalty for Switzerland!
53 min: The referee stops the play, and goes over to the VAR screen. Pavard clearly upended Zuber, and so the ref, who had shown no interest whatsoever, reverses his decision and points to the spot! The correct decision. A no-brainer. I have no idea why he didn’t give it in the first place.
52 min: Zuber tears down the left. He’s got the beating of Pavard! He enters the box. Pavard slides in, and looks to have taken him down. Zuber does his level best to stay on his feet. Play goes on. France go up the other end. Their move breaks down.
50 min: ... and here comes Embolo, dribbling with purpose into the French box from the right. His low cross looks to have found Shaqiri at the far post for a tap-in ... but Shaqiri’s fated to take a fresh-air swipe, because Varane manages to get a little deflection on the cross that foxes him. What sensational defending! That looked for all the world like a two-goal lead for the Swiss.
49 min: Switzerland take some time to ping it around themselves, a reminder that they’re not planning to spend the second half sitting deep.
47 min: Pogba diddles Xhaka and Rodriguez down the right, only to shank the ball out for a goal kick. But again, it’s an early sign that France have been ordered to pick it up a bit. Bof is not enough.
46 min: France are now playing four at the back again, by the looks of it. Griezmann has a pop from distance; it’s always heading wide right. But it’s a statement of intent, if nothing else.
France get the second half underway. Deschamps/Steptoe/Savage has made a change, hooking Lenglet and sending on Coman.
Half-time postbag. “The Swiss didn’t get a lucky goal and then just hang on. The Swiss are outplaying the French and France are lucky they are not further behind” - Mary Waltz.
“Does anyone else think Didier Deschamps bears more than a passing resemblance to Albert Steptoe, especially in his more anxious moments?” - Steve Dennis.
“It’s been troubling me who Dechamps looks like all tournament and it’s clear now: Paul O’Grady” - Lenny Peters.
Half-time entertainment. Easy to forget, for those of us who live in the moment, and so intriguing has that first half been, that we’re coming off the back of an eight-goal thriller. Sid Lowe’s verdict is in; enjoy, enjoy.
HALF TIME: France 0-1 Switzerland
The Swiss deservedly lead. They could have had more, as well. A lot of thinking for Didier Dechamps to do. Big half-time speech coming up. “Well that was the 45 minute representation of a single Gallic shrug,” writes Gary Naylor. Yep. Bof in human form.
45 min +2: Embolo takes a dreadful whack upside the head in an accidental 50-50 collision with Rabiot. He’s thankfully up again soon enough.
45 min +1: Embolo barges down the right wing with extreme prejudice. He enters the box and attempts a cross. It deflects off Lenglet and pinballs into the six-yard box at pace. The ball could have flown anywhere, but Varane is able to hack clear.
45 min: There will be two added minutes.
44 min: Griezmann is robbed by Embolo mid-feint. Embolo briefly threatens to break clear down the middle before being nudged off the ball. If either team are desperate to hear the half-time whistle in order to regroup, it’s the world champions.
43 min: Griezmann flicks a pass in from the right for Mbappe, who drives at the Swiss box before flaying a miserable effort miles over the bar.
41 min: Xhaka slips a cute pass down the inside left to feed Embolo, who can’t get a shot away, but earns a corner. Nothing comes of it.
40 min: France stroke it around the back. Suddenly Shaqiri intercepts and sends Embolo into space down the right. The ball’s sent wide left to Seferovic, who doesn’t back himself in a footrace with Pavard. The move breaks down, but France were exposed there.
38 min: Some punter is having a wee jog about the pitch. As they’re pursued by the polis, the players take the opportunity of an impromptu drinks break.
37 min: Griezmann’s corner is no good, failing to beat the first man. Switzerland are giving as good as they’re getting; the possession stats are 51-49 to France.
36 min: Griezmann, out on the left flank, crosses deep towards Pavard. Zuber is forced to head behind for a corner.
34 min: Pogba is fairly fortunate not to make it three bookings in four minutes as he clatters into the back of Embolo, who was in full flight down the left wing. Just a free kick, from which nothing comes.
33 min: Griezmann was upended by Elvedi as he played that ball to Rabiot, and the Swiss defender goes rightfully into the book.
32 min: ... and this could easily have been an equaliser for France. Griezmann turns a first-time ball around the corner down the left. Rabiot dribbles into the box but overruns the ball before he can shoot. Goal kick.
31 min: Shaqiri whips a stunner towards the far post. Embolo wins a wrestle with Kimpembe, only to flash a header wide right from six yards. That could very easily have been a second for the Swiss ...
30 min: Zuber drops a shoulder to gain a yard down the left. He’s about to tear free when Varane comes across to stop him with a cynical slide. Free kick, just to the side of the French box, and the first yellow card of the game.
28 min: France are dominating possession, but the Swiss don’t look particularly uncomfortable with that right now. So having typed all that out, Rabiot creams a low diagonal pearler inches wide of the right-hand post. Sommer probably had it covered, were it on target, though it’d have needed a strong hand to turn it out.
26 min: Mbappe drives the free kick straight into the wall. The ball comes back to him. He sends a first-time diagonal screamer well wide of the right-hand post.
25 min: France draw a few pretty triangles down the left. Robiot flicks into the stomach of Freuler. The referee ludicrously awards a free kick for handball. This is in a dangerous area, 25 yards out, just to the left of centre.
24 min: Shaqiri attempts a clever first-time reverse pass down the middle. Lenglet does well to read the danger and intercept, with Seferovic ready to zip clear.
22 min: France gather themselves and launch a couple of attacks. First Pogba nearly quarterbacks Mbappe clear, but Elvedi stays strong. Then Rabiot bustles down the left and chips across the face of goal for Benzema. Sommer gets a fingertip to the cross, diverting it away from danger.
20 min: On the touchline, Didier Deschamps has the good grace to look concerned. He’s hoping to become the first man to win both the Euros and the World Cup as both player and manager. His team are a little rattled all of a sudden.
18 min: Griezmann is bowled over by a full-of-vim Seferovic, out on the left. Free kick. France load the box. Griezmann floats it in, but Elvedi rises above Pogba aned Varane to head clear.
16 min: There’s a VAR check for bugger all. Switzerland, rather wonderfully, continue to celebrate the opening goal with great feeling, paying the pointless pause no heed. Eventually the game restarts ... and we do have a game. Oh we have a game.
GOAL! France 0-1 Switzerland (Seferovic 15)
Hello! What’s this? Some space for Zuber down the left. He digs out a wonderful cross. Seferovic rises highest in the centre, miles over Lenglet, and plants an unstoppable downwards header into the bottom left! Lloris had no chance!
14 min: Griezmann wedges a chip down the left and nearly releases Mbappe. The fear of Elvedi, sticking to him, just about, is palpable. The Jan Olsson to Mbappe’s Cruyff?
12 min: Mbappe and Benzema combine crisply down the left after a mistake from Embolo. The move breaks down, much to the Swiss forward’s relief, but the world crackles with electricity every time Mbappe touches the ball. “If we have to have national anthems then why can’t they all be the Marseillaise?” wonders David Wall. “Especially now that Russia are out, nothing else comes close. Special credit to Italy though, their anthem seems like enormous fun to sing.” Anthem envy is a thing, right? Certainly around these parts.
10 min: Zuber holds off Kante, 30 yards out. The ball’s fed down the right for Freuler, who whistles a dangerous cross across the face of the French goal. Fortunately for France, Seferovic is on the back foot and doesn’t attack the ball.
8 min: Embolo makes good down the Swiss left and earns a corner off Varane. Rodriguez swings it in. Varane clanks a header clear. Somewhere in the multiverse, four or five goals have already been scored.
7 min: Mbappe twists and turns down the left to win another corner. He’s not scored yet in this tournament, and clearly fancies a piece of the action tonight.
6 min: Griezmann crosses from the left. Rodriguez misses his header. Benzema chests down, eight yards out, with a view to shooting, but Zuber gets in the road, just in time. These are high-octane opening exchanges!
5 min: Mbappe burns down the right wing this time. He feeds Kante in the middle. Kante switches play to the left, where Benzema tricks Elvedi with a little jig, before pulling back from the byline to nobody in particular. Switzerland half clear.
4 min: It’s a bright start, this. Switzerland come back at France, Shaqiri busying himself down the right, his deep cross forcing Kimpembe into conceding a corner. Rodriguez loops it in, but France deal with it without too much fuss.
2 min: Griezmann whips the corner towards Varane, in a pocket of space on the edge of the six-yard box. He doesn’t get a firm header on the ball, which pings miles over the bar. He possibly should have scored; he certainly should have worked Sommer at the very least. That could have been a sensational start.
1 min: France are very quickly on the attack, Griezmann sending Mbappe scooting down the left. He can’t quite get past Elvedi, but soon enough the first corner of the game is won.
The Powercube starts us up. Xherdan Shaqiri kicks off for the Swiss.
The teams are out! France wear their famous bleu, while Switzerland are in second-choice weiss. Both teams only have about 1,500 dedicated followers egging them on, though they’ll make the noise of 15,000, I’ll be bound. There are coins to be tossed, pennants to be swapped, fists to be bumped. Once all that’s done, we’ll be under way. Off in a couple of minutes!
The national anthems. The French one is a banger, second only to As Time Goes By as the best song in Casablanca ...
To arms, citizens! / Form your battalions! / March, march! / Let an impure blood water our furrows
When the morning skies grow red / And o’er their radiance shed / Thou, O Lord, appeareth in their light / When the Alps glow bright with splendour!
France have won the European Championship twice, in 1984 and 2000. You can read about their Euro 2000 exploits here; then click below for Steven Pye’s analysis of Michel Platini’s imperial phase.
Pre-match entertainment. Nick Ames is our man in Bucharest; here’s his big-match preview.
The winners of this game will face Spain in the quarter-finals in Saint Petersburg on Friday. They’ve just beaten Croatia 5-3 after extra-time, the sort of scoreline that wouldn’t have looked out of place at that 1954 World Cup. In doing so, Spain have become the first team in Euros history to score five goals in consecutive matches. Here’s how a wild afternoon in Copenhagen unfolded; Niall McVeigh’s got blisters on his fingers.
Vladimir Petkovic has been in charge of Switzerland since 2014. This is his 77th game as boss, equalling the record of Karl Rappan, who had four spells in charge between 1937 and 1963. Rappan was the last man to take the Swiss to the quarter-finals of a tournament, at the aforementioned 1954 World Cup, only for his defensive system - the verrou, or Bolt - to shear clean off, his team losing 7-5 to Austria in the famous Heat Battle of Lausanne.
France make three changes to the team selected for the draw against Portugal. Clement Lenglet takes his place in a back three, while Benjamin Pavard and Adrien Rabiot are deployed as wing backs. Corentin Tolisso and Lucas Hernandez drop to the bench, while Jules Kounde misses out altogether. Switzerland name the same XI that started the Turkish romp.
France: Lloris, Varane, Lenglet, Kimpembe, Pavard, Pogba, Kante, Rabiot, Griezmann, Benzema, Mbappe.
Subs: Lemar, Giroud, Tolisso, Zouma, Mandanda, Sissoko, Coman, Lucas, Ben Yedder, Maignan, Dubois, Thuram.
Switzerland: Sommer, Elvedi, Akanji, Rodriguez, Widmer, Freuler, Xhaka, Zuber, Shaqiri, Seferovic, Embolo.
Subs: Mbabu, Zakaria, Vargas, Mvogo, Sow, Fassnacht, Benito, Mehmedi, Gavranovic, Fernandes, Kobel, Schar.
Referee: Fernando Rapallini (Argentina).
The world champions France have lost just one of their last 17 games at a major tournament; the Euro 2016 final against Portugal. They’re currently on a 19-match unbeaten run in competitive fixtures, since losing a Euro qualifier against Turkey in 2019. And, either least or most pertinently, depending on how you look at it, Les Bleus have never lost a competitive encounter against Switzerland, winning two and drawing the other four.
By comparison, the Round of 16 is the stage when the Swiss normally get a nosebleed; the last time Switzerland made it to the quarter-finals of a major championship was at the 1954 World Cup. A shoo-in for Didier Dechamps’ side, then ... except this is almost exactly what everyone was saying about Italy before they faced Austria on Saturday night, and look what a struggle that turned out to be. And while France breezed through Group F on cruise control, they haven’t touched the heights expected of them yet, while Switzerland, who qualified from Group A as one of the best third-placed sides, scored some very pretty goals against Turkey, and go into this game with their tails up.
So will France make it to the quarters as expected? Or will the Swiss deliver the shock of the championship so far? We’ll find out soon enough. It’s a big night in Bucharest. It’s on! Kick off is at 8pm BST, 10pm in Romania.