Image: Wikimedia Commons / Эдгар Брещанов
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Эдгар Брещанов

EURO 2020 Preview: Will Pedri lead Spain to the final four?

If Spain and Switzerland can replicate the drama of Magic Monday in Saint Petersburg, their quarter-final clash at EURO 2020 could rank among the competition’s greatest games of all time.

La Furia Roja opened the week’s action with a topsy-turvy win over Croatia, coming through as 5-3 victors after extra time. Despite frittering away a 3-1 lead in the final moments of regulation time, the Spaniards enter the last eight with a bounce in their step. For the first time since 2012, Spain have qualified for the quarter-final of a major tournament. 

Ranked thirteenth in the world by FIFA, Vladimir Petković’s Switzerland qualified for the quarters by pulling off the shock of the tournament. On a disastrous night for Kylian Mbappé, the Swiss eliminated bookies’ favourites France via a penalty shootout in Bucharest. As a result, Switzerland are into the quarter-final of a major tournament for the first time since 1954.

Could the Gazprom Arena, then, provide the backdrop for another EURO 2020 classic?

Well, following his nation’s victory in the first knockout round, Barcelona stalwart Sergio Busquets suggested that the world is yet to see the best of Spain.

“To get to the quarter-finals is an indication that we’re a good team,” the 32-year-old single pivot said. “We were very good [against Croatia], very intense, well prepared and we beat a very, very difficult rival. We are growing throughout the tournament.”

Indeed, they are. 

On Monday, Spain became the first nation in European Championship history to score five goals in back-to-back matches. The Spaniards haven’t always been free-scoring at EURO 2020, though, Enrique’s team spurned numerous high-quality chances against Sweden and Poland during the group stage

Pedri, an 18-year-old wonderkid born in Tenerife, has enjoyed a breakout tournament in Spain’s midfield

So, if Spain are to defeat the Swiss, La Roja must continue to create bucket-loads of chances in the hope that their inconsistent forwards will find twine. As a result, the hopes of a nation rest on young shoulders.

Pedri, an 18-year-old wonderkid born in Tenerife, has enjoyed a breakout tournament in Spain’s midfield. Deployed by Enrique as La Roja’s central playmaker, Pedri has already made 43 progressive carries at the European Championship. The Barcelona midfielder provides the heartbeat for Spain’s attack; he will be key versus Switzerland.

However, the teenager will not have it easy in the quarter-final. Granit Xhaka put on a showcase against France, offering the best performance of his career. Underestimating the Arsenal midfielder while he plays in the red and white of his country is a fool’s game, although he will be suspended for the quarter-final.

“It’s amazing,” Xhaka said of Switzerland’s upset of France. “We made history tonight and we are all very proud. We wrote the history of this footballing nation. Now we have Spain in the quarters. It will be difficult but we are dreaming now.”

And Switzerland have reasons to dream.

Benfica forward Haris Seferović has scored three times in his last two appearances, with diminutive playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri providing exemplary service from attacking midfield. Steven Zuber has enjoyed a fantastic tournament in central midfield, while Breel Embolo and Yann Sommer have also starred for La Nati.

The Swiss have already eliminated the world champions; it would be foolish to discount Petković’s side ahead of their match against Spain.

For Switzerland or Spain, Magic Monday will transform into Fantastic Friday. You won’t want to miss it.

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