Switzerland picked up further momentum at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship as Pierluigi Tami's team advanced to the semi-finals on the back of a comfortable 3-0 victory against Belarus. However, as a remarkable coda to the match, Belarus took second place after a three-way tie between them, Iceland and Denmark.
Tami made the decision to recall Admir Mehmedi for tonight's Group A finale and was rewarded with goals at either end of the first half from the forward. Substitute Frank Feltscher added a cheeky third in second-half stoppage time. With Georgi Kondratyev's side unable to conjure an unlikely comeback, the Swiss marched on as group winners while Belarus somehow survived a U21 group stage for the first time after two previous failures and with only three points.
After a day of soaking weather coming in off the Kattegat sea, the rainbow that hung over the Aarhus Stadion at kick-off would herald a happy ending for at least one of these sides. The issue of which of the Group A teams would qualify initially looked less clouded when Mehmedi, restored as Switzerland's lone frontrunner in place of Mario Gavranović, put his sixth-minute penalty in the opposite direction to goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor's dive.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Xherdan Shaqiri was the instigator. His cute pass sent Innocent Emeghara racing through – and on a collision course with defender Oleg Veretilo. Shaqiri, of course, had got the Swiss bandwagon rolling with his goal against Denmark; now the fear for Belarus was that he was about to attach the four horsemen of the apocalypse to it.
Switzerland's composure – rather, Emeghara's sense of direction – went awry soon after when, from Fabian Frei's cross, the No7 skipped over Gutor, only to shoot wastefully wide. However, Kondratyev’s team responded spiritedly to the early setback. Switzerland right-back Philippe Koch did well to get his head to several crosses into Yann Sommer's box, before Belarus's own No2, Stanislav Dragun, elicited a save from the keeper. Sommer had another nervous moment when he spilled a Mikhail Sivakov centre.
Frei's dart along the opposition goal line deserved a better finish than Mehmedi's. Granit Xhaka, whose booking rules him out of the semi-final, showed him how but Gutor made the save. Mehmedi obviously took the hint: when centre-back Yegor Filipenko cleared the ball from the edge of his area straight to Xhaka, Mehmedi was ideally placed to receive the pass and stroke a first-time shot in off the post.
Maksim Skavysh, one of three changes to the Belarusian lineup – two of them forced by suspensions to Sergei Politevich and Nikita Bukatkin – fizzed a shot over after the restart. Yet with Sergei Matveychik seeing red after 68 minutes for a second yellow card, the chief hope for Belarus became the scoreline between Iceland and Denmark. And with Iceland beating Denmark 3-1 in Aalborg, the permutations were right for Belarus to progress regardless of Feltscher catching Gutor out at his near post at the death.