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Switzerland make history on 'most beautiful night'

"We are dreaming now," said Granit Xhaka after the Nati's remarkable win against France, capturing the mood of his team – and an entire nation.

Switzerland revel in their victory against France
Switzerland revel in their victory against France POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The biggest night in Swiss football arrived when it was least expected. The Nati had never won a EURO knockout tie, nor had they ever beaten France in a competitive match. And this was not just any France side; these were the world champions.

Yet Switzerland prevailed on penalties after an almost perfect game, thanks to a tactical masterclass and an unwavering sense of self-belief.

France vs Switzerland: all the reaction

"What a match! What an evening of football," said the hero, Yann Sommer, who saved Kylian Mbappé's penalty to begin the Swiss celebrations.

Captain Granit Xhaka was crowned Star of the Match after a tireless performance in midfield, and the significance of the triumph was not lost on him either. "We wrote the history of this footballing nation," he said. "We are dreaming now."

Switzerland and Spain through on amazing night
Switzerland and Spain through on amazing night

Switzerland had never won a European Championship finals knockout game, had not edged a knockout tie in any major tournament for 83 years and had never won a penalty shoot-out, losing their previous three. Indeed, it was at this stage that they exited EURO 2016, succumbing on spot kicks to Poland.

In Bucharest, however, Vladimir Petković's side were unburdened by the weight of that history as they sought to make their own. The players executed their coach's masterplan magnificently, laying down a high tempo, giving little space to the French and exposing the three-man backline their opponents had adopted for the night.

It worked. At least up until the 55th minute; France hadn't had a single shot on target when Ricardo Rodríguez had the chance to make it 2-0 from the spot following Haris Seferović's first-half opener. Hugo Lloris saved his attempt and, within a couple of minutes, Les Bleus had capitalised on their momentum and were in front.

But the Swiss reacted, didn't give up, and ultimately came out on top. "I'm proud to have scored such an important goal for my country," said Mario Gavranović, who fired in the equaliser just seconds before the final whistle as Switzerland forced extra time despite having been 3-1 down.

"It's the most beautiful of nights," added Seferović. Beautiful, emotional and historic.

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