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EURO 2016

Euro 2016: Poland through to quarter-finals after beating Swiss on penalties

Poland became the first nation through to the last eight when they held their nerve to beat Switzerland on penalties. Jakub Blaszczykowski's opener was earlier canceled out by an outrageous Xherdan Shaqiri overhead kick.

Switzerland, like Poland appearing in the knockout round of a European Championships for the first time, wasted several chances in extra time to win an entertaining clash in Saint-Etienne that finished 1-1 after 90 minutes.

Midfielder Granit Xhaka then blasted his spot kick, Switzerland’s second, wide of the goal and Poland netted all five of theirs. Grzegorz Krychowiak emphatically drove the decisive penalty into the net to make it 5-4 and send his side through to the last eight.

Poland, who had never been involved in a World Cup or European Championship shootout, will play Portugal in the quarterfinals on Thursday, who overcame Croatia by a single goal.

There were ominous signs for the Swiss right from the kickoff.

Johan Djourou almost gifted Poland a goal inside the first minute when his lazy backpass allowed Robert Lewandowski to put Yann Sommer under pressure.

The ball fell to Arkadiusz Milik on the edge of the area but his first-time shot flew wide of the vacant goal.

Between the legs

Each side had reasonable chances before Blaszczykowski opened the scoring.

Lukasz Fabianski’s quick throw sent Kamil Grosicki galloping up the left and Milik cleverly let his cross run through to Blaszczykowski in space on the right of the penalty area.

The Dortmund midfielder, who was on loan at Italian side Fiorentina last season, took one touch before firing low between Sommer’s legs.

It was his eighteenth goal for the national side and his second in the tournament after his winner in the 1-0 victory over Ukraine in Poland’s final group outing.

Switzerland began the second half brightly and Xherdan Shaqiri stung Fabianski’s hands with a sweet effort from the edge of the penalty area after 51 minutes.

However, it was Poland who were still looking the more dangerous and Sommer did well to keep out a powerful Blaszczykowski strike two minutes later.

Reckless late lunge

As the match opened up with the Swiss pressing forward, some reckless tackles began to fly in and Switzerland's Fabian Schär and Poland's Artur Jedrzejczyk received yellow cards for late fouls.

Switzerland almost leveled in the after 73 minutes when a Ricardo Rodriguez free kick forced a fine, fingertip save from Fabianski.

They went even closer five minutes later when Djourou’s shot was blocked and Haris Seferovic smashed the rebound against the crossbar.

Shaqiri’s cartwheeling goal celebration after his leveler almost matched the acrobatics of his goal, a wonderful overhead kick from the edge of the penalty area that flew in off the inside of a post.

Switzerland nearly snatched a winner in regular time but substitute Breel Embolo couldn’t connect cleanly with a back-post volley.

European dream alive

Shaqiri tormented the Polish defense in extra-time, and, when he crossed to the back post after 113 minutes, Fabianski produced another great stop to keep out Eren Derdiyok’s header.

Derdiyok came close again five minutes later at the near post but Fabianski was again on hand.

Despite the baying of the Swiss fans behind the goal, Poland successfully negotiated the first shootout of the tournament at its first possible inclusion to keep their dream of European glory alive.

It was more penalty heartache for Switzerland after they missed all their kicks and were knocked out by Ukraine in the last 16 at the 2006 World Cup.