Switzerland 1-1 Spain
If the SBOTOP UEFA Nations League 2020 betting odds stretched to such matters, this simply could not have been foreseen.
Spanish football’s captain, highly decorated defender and, in some cases divisive figure, blotting his copybook on the night he made more history.
In an empty St Jakob Park in Basel, in a contest known as the UEFA Nations League Group A4, here was Sergio Ramos winning his 177th cap for the Spanish national team, becoming the most capped male European player and surpassing the great Gianluigi Buffon’s record in the process.
What duly followed made for UEFA Nations League 2020 highlights, although ones to forget if you were of a Spanish persuasion.
Highlights of the game
A Nations League square-off which both sides needed to win and certainly could not afford to lose, Spain were keen to bounce back from shock defeat in Ukraine last month.
Yet boss Luis Enrique sprang a surprise by leaving number one goalie David de Gea on the bench and selecting Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simon for his competitive national team debut.
Twenty-three minutes in and he was picking the ball out of the net through Remo Frueler’s shot on the fly which curled past the goalkeeper from Breel Embolo’s cross.
Freuler could have doubled their advantage in the second half but it was Ramos – always in the news – who came to his side’s rescue with a goalline clearance.
By then, Spain should have been level but, just before the break, Ferran Torres failed to convert with the back-post gaping.
Spain were handed a perfect opportunity to level matters when Ramos saw a header strike the back of the arm of Ricardo Rodriguez. The centre-back stepped up to take the spot kick and placed it in the corner only for the impressive Yann Sommer to parry his effort to safety.
Sommer then took centre stage again as Nico Elvedi brought down Alvaro Morata, for which he was shown a second yellow card, only for the Borussia Monchengladbach shot-stopper to outwit Ramos by catching the ball from the defender’s ‘Panenka’ style penalty.
After scoring all of his previous 25 attempts for both the national team and Real Madrid, Ramos had to be unsuccessful at some point – it was just a surprise to see.
Enrique had outlined the difficulty of Switzerland as opponents and must have been concerned his words would prove damaging as time ticked away.
Spain were not outdone, though, and substitute Gerard Moreno saved Ramos’s blushes a minute from the end, finally beating Sommer by lashing home a cross from Sergio Reguilón.
It’s still all to play for in Group A4. La Roja drop to second in the table but can win the group with a win at home to Germany on Tuesday.
Sommer is the second goalkeeper to save a penalty from Ramos after Croatia’s Danijel Subasic in Euro 2016.
Spain have lost just once to Switzerland in 22 matches. As for the Swiss, that one and only victory was a most famous occasion
Switzerland are winless in seven games and have not managed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight games. That is their longest run without a win since 1998.
Granit Xhaka has become Switzerland’s joint-sixth most-capped player, moving level with Gökhan Inler (88).
Switzerland will conclude their UEFA Nations League campaign on Tuesday night (November 17) at home to Ukraine, while Spain host Germany at the same time where anything other than a win will see Germany progress to the semi-finals.
After that, the next scheduled fixtures for both nations are in next summer’s delayed Euro 2020.
Switzerland will meet Wales on June 12, with Spain due to face Sweden two days later – although both nations will line up spring and pre-tournament friendlies before that.
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