Switzerland had to wait a day to find out it advanced to the round of 16 at the European Championship.
That’s nothing compared to its 67-year wait for a quarterfinal spot at a major soccer tournament.
Switzerland beat Turkey 3-1 to finish third in Group A on Sunday, but it took losses for Ukraine and Finland on Monday to guarantee the Swiss a spot in the round of 16 as one of the four best third-place teams at Euro 2020.
The players followed other games via the internet from their plane as they flew from Azerbaijan to Italy to train for the next round and had what forward Breel Embolo called “a little reception” in the hotel to celebrate.
“Round of 16, we’re coming,” Embolo told Swiss broadcaster SRF on Tuesday. “We all felt happiness because it was clear we’d hit our minimum target.”
The round of 16 is where things get tricky for Switzerland. The team lost at that stage at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups and at Euro 2016. Going out at the same stage again would put them in the similar category as Mexico, which has gone out in the last 16 at seven consecutive World Cups. Talk of the supposed curse of the “quinto partido” — the elusive fifth game — arises every four years.
The last time Switzerland reached the quarterfinals was on home soil at the 1954 World Cup, a spectacular 7-5 loss to neighbor Austria which still holds the record for the highest-scoring game in tournament history.
Two goals from Xherdan Shaqiri helped Switzerland to victory over Turkey, easing the pressure on coach Vladimir Petkovic, who had been criticized for his team’s lack of creativity in the earlier 3-0 loss to Italy. He’s been with Switzerland since 2014, making him the third-longest-serving coach of any team at the tournament.
The win cemented Shaqiri’s status as the big-game player for Switzerland at tournaments, even after a club season at Liverpool where he was often on the periphery. He scored a hat trick against Honduras at the 2014 World Cup, an overhead kick against Poland in 2016 and the winning goal in a heated game against Serbia in 2018.
Switzerland will have to wait a little longer to find out who it plays in the round of 16. The Euro 2020 bracket won’t be finalized until the last groups finish on Wednesday.