Three-time champions Spain have survived through another scourge of beating the ten men team, Switzerland, in a penalty shootout to reach the semi-finals of the European Championship.
The Swiss substitute Ruben Vargas was in tears at full time after bursting his penalty over the bar and allowing Mikel Oyarzabal to score the decider for Spain.
Spain, the sixth-ranked team in the world, also needed extra time to beat Croatia in the last 16 despite leading 3-1 with five minutes of normal game time.
They were in front of St Petersburg against Switzerland when midfielder Denis Zakaria deflected Jordi Alba‘s shot into his own net to give Spain a chance to take the lead early.
Swiss captain Xherdan Shaqiri equalized following a mistake at the back by Spain. But the Swiss team-mate Remo Freuler was sent off nine minutes later.
They clung to forcing extra time and a shootout but missed the three spot-kick that ultimately proved costly.
Spain nest will face Italy at Wembley on Tuesday in the semi-finals after Roberto Mancini‘s side beat Belgium 2-1.
Spain lacks ruthlessness but continues.
When Alba’s shot deflected to give Spain a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute, there were some positive signs for Luis Enrique’s side.
They had the opportunity to extend their lead with Cesar Azpilicueta and Pau Torres both shaking their heads wide from corners.
But Spain’s lack of ruthlessness in front of goal almost came back to haunt them. When Zakaria, who had been earlier at fault for the own goal, came close to heading home. And Steven Zuber was ruled out.
Eventually, it was a mistake back from Spain that gave Switzerland a lifeline. The encounter between Aymeric Laporte and Pau Torres was interrupted by Freuler. And he teed up Shaqiri, who could not miss.
But Freuler’s heroes were short-lived when he came to the end of the fate of Gerard Moreno. And England referee Michael Oliver did not hesitate to show a straight red card.
Switzerland held on for the remaining 13 minutes and boldly defended in extra time. Ricardo Rodriguez produced an excellent block for denying Marcos Llorente.
In addition, Moreno had the best chance in two minutes of extra time. As he fired wide from a few yards, kicking over the post in frustration.
But Spain, who missed two penalties at the shootout time, did just enough to pass. Their toughest test will be the last four against Italy, the world’s best team, after beating Belgium.