Both Jordan Henderson and Xherdan Shaqiri wore the captain’s armband for their respective countries, and were joined by Thiago Alcântara in representing Liverpool in the Euro 2020 quarter finals.
Shaqiri was on target for Switzerland, but his efforts were in vain as Spain advanced to the final four on Friday evening.
It was a cagey affair which saw Switzerland rely on the game plan that had seen them conquer France, whilst Spain dominated possession but lacked that cutting edge up top.
Whilst Shaqiri was leading his country from the front, his Liverpool compatriot Thiago once was again on the Spanish bench. The former Bayern Munich player is yet to start a game at the Euros, with La Roja manager Luis Enrique opting for Barcelona pair Sergio Busquets and Pedri along with Atlético Madrid captain Koke.
Returning to the action – with two goals and one assist in five games prior to this game, Shaqiri entered the game in ideal form as many assumed Switzerland would have been well gone by this stage of the tournament.
The Liverpool attacking midfielder started the game brightly with early shots testing the palms of Unai Simón in the Spanish goal. However, it was Spain who made the first breakthrough.
Having struggled with their scoring efforts throughout the tournament – besides the Slovakia game – Luis Enrique’s side got things underway after just eight minutes as a deep corner found Jordi Alba on the edge of the box. His strike was swift and clean but his effort was deflected by Denis Zakaria into the top of Yann Sommer’s net.
After the goal, the game calmed in the first half with limited chances for both sides. Switzerland had the majority of the chances, with Shaqiri performing admirably throughout the half, playing some good through balls and whipping in some great corners, but no-one could get on the end of them.
Spain on the other hand were happy to hold onto their lead and play their way. Not having to force a goal and having great game management is what Enrique’s side are good at. This situation would have been ideal for Thiago, however the Reds’ midfielder continued to watch from afar.
After the interval, Spain came out with more intent – searching to double down on that lead – but ultimately fell short in converting any of their chances. This would severely comeback to bite them.
In the 68th minute, after a horrendous mix up at the back from Spain’s two centre back’s, the ball fell to Remo Freuler who squared it perfectly to Shaqiri in the middle. The Liverpool man made no mistake as he slotted home to level proceedings.
Despite this positive move for the Swiss, they would see out the final 15 minutes with ten men, as the afore mentioned Freuler was dismissed by Michael Oliver. This decision saw Shaqiri pulled to make way for a more defensive minded player.Embed from Getty Images
Even with the numerical and the lack of cutting edge in the final third, Thiago remained on the bench until the last five minutes of extra time. La Roja needed his creativity desperately but it was too little, too late as they were forced to the uncertainty of penalties.
The high number of missed chances could have come back to haunt Spain but, by the end of the shootout it was Thiago who was celebrating as his side came through 3-1 on penalties – with the Liverpool man’s services not needed from the spot.
Thiago played just seven minutes but goes one step further than his Liverpool teammate, advancing to the semi-finals, where he will face Italy at Wembley on Tuesday.Embed from Getty Images
Also in the last four of the competition is Henderson and England, who were convincing in their victory over Ukraine on Saturday night.
Andriy Shevchenko’s side looked exhausted by the end of their extra time victory over Sweden in the previous round, and in truth it looked like they were not able to recover in time as Ukraine faded badly in the second half of the contest in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
Two Harry Kane strikes sandwiched a header from Harry Maguire, but the biggest cheer of the evening came when Henderson, who had only appeared from the bench a few minutes earlier, popped up from a corner to head in his first England goal in his 62nd appearance.
The relief on his face was clear to see – especially considering the context of his penalty miss in a warm-up friendly for this tournament which left it feeling like he might never register a goal for his country.Embed from Getty Images
He later picked up the captain’s armband after Kane was substituted, and played an important role in seeing out what was an extremely comfortable win for England.
Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips seem to be Gareth Southgate’s preferred options in a deeper role for the England midfield, but Henderson has proven in this tournament the experience and quality he can bring off the bench.
It’s likely he will play again in a tricky semi-final against the tournament’s surprise package Denmark, before a possible face-off against Liverpool teammate Thiago in the final on July 11.
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