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Host snatches draw to stifle Swiss cheers

From the jaws of defeat, Germany grabs a point with added-time equalizer to cement top spot in Group A

Updated: 2024-06-25 09:26
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Niclas Fullkrug scores Germany's equalizing goal during the dying minutes of its Euro 2024 Group A clash against Switzerland in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday. The match ended 1-1 with both teams advancing to the next round. REUTERS

FRANKFURT, Germany — They all jumped for the ball in a frantic late push for the goal that would save Germany from its first loss at the European Championship to an impressive Switzerland team.

Defender Nico Schlotterbeck leaped up, next to the even more imposing centerback Antonio Rudiger, who reached highest of all. In front of them both was substitute Niclas Fullkrug.

The German trio was circled by three Swiss opponents trying to protect a 1-0 lead two minutes into stoppage time. Six pairs of feet off the ground in unison, straining to be the one to head the ball.

It was Fullkrug who won the contest, guiding the ball, crossed from another substitute David Raum, back across Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer and into the top corner of the net. The match ended 1-1.

"In the end it's a well-deserved point. We did well to come back. We deserved it," Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann said.

"Niclas is important for us. It's important to have players who can score decisive goals coming on as substitutes.

"We risked a lot in this phase because we could have conceded a second goal," Nagelsmann said about throwing his defenders into attack. "Who doesn't dare to risk, doesn't get to draw."

Germany had already confirmed its place in the round of 16 before kickoff Sunday, but a draw felt like a win under the circumstances, and kept the host's unbeaten momentum after its wins against Scotland and Hungary.

"When you see how the Germans celebrated their goal, that says everything," said Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka, named player of the match.

Switzerland impressed while protecting a 28th-minute goal from Dan Ndoye's clever volleyed shot, and chasing a bigger lead. A second goal was denied by a marginal offside ruling against Ruben Vargas and a fine save by Manuel Neuer from Xhaka's shot.

The point for each team ensured Germany finished top, with Switzerland in second place in Group A.Hungary took third place in the standings with an even later stoppage-time goal to beat Scotland 1-0 in Stuttgart.

The Germans, who last won the Euros in 1996, will take on the Group C runner-up — currently slated to be Denmark — in the last 16.

Denmark, two points behind leader England, plays Serbia in its last group game on Tuesday.

Germany is also on track for a potential quarterfinal clash with Spain, which has been among the best teams at the tournament so far.

Switzerland has now made the knockout stage in six successive major tournaments. As Group A runner-up with five points, the Swiss will face the second-placed team in Group B in the next round.

Nagelsmann acknowledged Germany's opponent might not like having two fewer days of rest, but added: "We have to prepare for four teams, they only have to prepare for one."

Switzerland heads to the Olympic Stadium in Berlin to open the round of 16 on Saturday against the runner-up in Group B, likely to be Italy or Croatia, which played Monday in their decisive group game.

"We fought, but against such an opponent it's difficult. We did a great job. It was a huge challenge," said Switzerland coach Murat Yakin.

Yakin suggested that Switzerland had earned the right to make a higher-ranked opponent concerned about his unbeaten team.

"I think we have a certain standing which we worked hard for. We're on a good path, without a defeat and with a very good style of play," Yakin said. "We like being the dark horse."

Switzerland's goal was made in Bologna, the upstart Italian club that has just qualified for its first Champions League.

The attack began when Fabian Rieder, making his first start since the 2022 World Cup, won the ball in the German half and then fed Ndoye's Bologna teammate Remo Freuler. Ndoye timed his run to meet Freuler's floated pass across the goalmouth, volleying the ball over the head of a flailing Neuer.

A video review had denied Germany the lead in the 17th minute. Robert Andrich's long-range shot bounced up and over the dive of Sommer, but the VAR team alerted Italian referee Daniele Orsato to an earlier foul just outside the six-yard box by Jamal Musiala.

The much-criticized Waldstadion playing surface behaved better on Sunday and the roof stayed closed to protect it, though no more rain is forecast for at least five days.

The turf cut up during both previous Euro 2024 games in Frankfurt. It seems not to have bedded-in properly since being laid in November after the stadium hosted two NFL games.

Frankfurt will host two more games, finishing with a round of 16 match that will include Group F winner Portugal perhaps facing Hungary, which faces a three-day wait to learn its fate.


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