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Switzerland exit Euro with heads high, says manager

Football - Euro 2020 - Quarter Final - Switzerland v Spain - Saint Petersburg Stadium, Sai

ST. PETERSBURG Swiss manager Vladimir Petkovic said his team could leave the European Championship with their heads high after being eliminated by Spain on penalty kicks in the quarter-finals on Friday in St. Petersburg.

An equaliser by captain Xherdan Shaqiri in the second half cancelled an early own goal and sent the teams to overtime, but two of the Swiss penalty kicks were stopped and one missed the target. Switzerland beat France on penalties in the round of 16.

“All these players were the heroes of the night. They would have deserved to go to the semi-finals,” Petkovic told a news conference. “I cannot complain and I take my hat off to the team.”

Petkovic said he could not blame Ruben Vargas for hitting his penalty over the bar in the shootout, saying instead that his player had demonstrated mental strength by even taking a spot-kick after such a long and gruelling match.

Manuel Akanji’s and Fabian Schar’s penalty kicks were both stopped by Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simon.

“We had to spend all our power and energy, and our energy ran out a little,” said Petkovic.

“Penalty kicks are a lottery and we lost it.”

Petkovic said he had not properly seen the tackle in the 77th minute that led to the red card against Remo Freuler - who had an assist for the Switzerland equaliser - but thought it had looked more like a minor foul.

Freuler slid to win the ball back but caught Gerard Moreno in the process.

“I question it a little bit, to be honest,” Petkovic said. “He (Freuler) maybe touched him a little.”

Spain will face the winner of the quarter-final between Belgium and Italy in London on July 6.