After a spirited Euro 2020 quarter-final defeat to Spain, praise has been pouring in for the Swiss national football team from supporters, newspapers, and ministers.
“Heroic to the end,” wrote the Tribune de Genève newspaper, summing up much of the reaction to Friday’s game, which saw 10-man Switzerland push Spain to extra time before losing on penalties.
The paper’s sports analyst wrote that he had “no more words, only emotions which compete with each other, disappear, then reappear again” – emotions which it will take days, if not weeks, to properly take stock of.
Switzerland beat France earlier this week – in an even more emotional game – to qualify for the quarter-final of a major championship for the first time since 1954, before pushing Spain to the wire last night.
In doing so the team unleashed a wave of collective emotion, a “thrill which spread throughout the country in the space of a short week, and which nobody will forget”, wrote the French-language edition of blick.ch, whose journalist was almost poetic:
“How beautiful were the dreams of these two summer nights, how brutal the wake-up now is”.
Fought the good fight
For the Tages-Anzeiger, it was also a “brutal end” after a “great fight”. Its Saturday edition writes that “the performances over the past two weeks were the best seen by Swiss football for decades”. The tournament brought “team and population together, something which also hasn’t been the case for a long time”.
More than this, the paper says, the question of “second-generation” players (many of the Swiss team have an immigrant background, which has led to debates about national loyalty) was a non-issue, and rightly so.
“There should, and there must, always be criticism [of a team and its performances]. But this should no longer lead to a situation where second-generation players are insinuated to be responsible for defeats, and the level of their identification with Switzerland questioned.”
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung also finds pride in defeat: “the thrilling campaign of the Swiss team has come to a bitter end”, it writes on Saturday. But “despite the brusque disappointment of being knocked out, the Swiss will travel home with heads held high”.
20 Minuten talks about the “euphoria” that gripped the country over the past week, when “even Swiss people who aren’t very interested in football sat at home in front of the TV to share in the emotions”.
And it also indulges in some what-ifs: what if the referee had been less harsh on Remo Freuler (sent off in the 77th minute for a dubious tackle on Spain’s Gerard Moreno)? What if Granit Xhaka (Switzerland’s captain, who was suspended for the game) had been on the pitch?
But for La Liberté, finally it’s not a time for what-ifs, rather for certainties: what’s clear, the paper says, is that trainer Vladimir Petkovic and his squad fulfilled what was expected of them at this tournament. More than that, in “breaking the glass ceiling” to get through the round of the last 16, the team “made us proud, and made our hearts beat”.
Viola Amherd, the minister whose portfolio includes sports, was in St Petersburg on Friday for the game. “Switzerland is proud of your result!” she wrote afterwards on Twitter.
Swiss president Guy Parmelin, who was not at the match, said the team “allowed us to dream”, and praised the “cohesion, enthusiasm, and team spirit among the players and the staff”.
Tennis player Roger Federer, due to play in the next round in Wimbledon today (Saturday), was also watching the game, after which he tweeted that the players had earned the right to “hold their heads high”.
“It was a fantastic Sommer”, he wrote, making a joke about the name of Swiss goalkeeper Jan Sommer, who some said was man of the match on Friday night, keeping Spain at bay until the penalty shoot-out.
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