First to qualify for last eight

Poland became the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, beating Switzerland in a penalty shoot-out in St Etienne.

Jakub Blaszczykowski fired Poland in front just six minutes before the break, while Xherdan Shaqiri equalized eight minutes from time with a stunning scissor-kick.

After a goalless extra time Poland sealed the win 5-4 on penalties.

Into the unknown

The match marked unchartered territory for both Switzerland and Poland, who were playing in the knockout stage of a European Championship finals for the first time.

Poland had never even won a game at the tournament before arriving in France, but it was Adam Nawałka’s men who made the break through first six minutes from the break.

Kamil Grosicki motored down the left flank before playing the ball across the box to Arkadiusz Milik. The Ajax man then dummied brilliantly to leave Blaszczykowski free to nutmeg an advancing Yann Sommer from 10 yards out and celebrate his second goal of the tournament.

 

The second half turned into an entertaining encounter with decent chances for both sides.

Robert Lewandowski almost caught Sommer out with a toe-poke from just inside the area while Blaszczykowski also called the Swiss shotstopper into action with a rasping effort.

At the other end Ricardo Rodríguez sent a delight free kick curling towards the top right corner only for Lukasz Fabianski to produce an equally stunning save to tip over the bar.

Haris Seferovic rattled the crossbar with a thunderous strike with just under 15 minutes left as Switzerland piled on the pressure looking for the equalizer.

The pressure paid off and the equalizer came with eight minutes remaining.

Xherdan Shaqiri produced arguably the goal of the tournament so far.

The Stoke City midfielder unleashed a stunning scissor-kick in from 18 yards out that went over his shoulder and into the bottom right corner past a diving Fabianski.

 

On the spot

Neither side could find the winner in regulation time as referee Mark Clattenburg blew his whistle to signal another 30 minutes of play.

As the clock wore down so did the pace and quality of play as both side’s appeared to be suffering. A couple of very good chances for bothe sides to win it came and went as penalties started to loom large.

The mass gathering around the centre circle ready for the decisive spots kicks eventually materialized as neither side could find the winner in extra time.

Granit Xhaka was the only one to miss his penalty from the ten players that walked into the area with ball in hand.

Grzegorz Krychowiak hit the winning spot kick to sent Poland into their first Euro quarter final.

 

Three things to know

  • This is Poland’s first visit to the knockout stage of the European Championship.
  • Robert Lewandowski top scored in qualifying with 13 goals, but his penalty was his first goal in these finals.
  • It is the first time Poland have conceded a goal this edition (not including the penalties).

Own goal puts Wales through

Wales continued their dream and historic run at Euro 2016 by qualifying for the quarter finals.

Chris Coleman’s men beat fellow competition debutants Northern Ireland 1-0 in a tame encounter at the Parc des Princes in Paris.

The only goal of the match came on 75 minutes through an own goal by Gareth McAuley.

Lacking quality

The clash was the first time the two home nations have met in the knockout stages of a major tournament.

It was also the first time either nation had made it to the knockout rounds of a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup.

Although the first half was a little scruffy and lacking real quality both sides did have their chances, but couldn’t capitalize and get on the scoreboard.

Northern Ireland appeared the more dangerous, though, as Stuart Dallas had a fine effort palmed round the post by Wayne Hennessey while Jamie Ward also called the Wales keeper into action with a ferocious rising shot from 25 yards out that was tipped over.

Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey, meanwhile, headed the ball past Michael McGovern and into the net only to be called for a clear offside.

Despite Wales having the lion’s share of the early possession, but both teams looked more comfortable and dangerous when on the break.

Northern Ireland would have been the happier with their performance as the sides walked back down the tunnel for half-time, but it was far from an entertaining match-up for the neutrals.

Gareth Bale came close to a third goal from a free kick this edition just before the hour mark but a diving Michael McGovern – man of the match against Germany – was up to the task to keep the scoreline goalless.

On 75 minutes that was to change. McGovern was beaten, and beaten by one of his own men.

After being played through by Ramsey, Bale raced down the left and then blasted a devastating low ball across the face of goal. With second-half sub Hal Robson-Kanu breathing down his neck, an outstretched McAuley could only stab into his own net from close range.

 

It proved to be the only goal of the evening and as Northern Ireland pack their bags to go home, Wales can look forward to a last eight tie against either Hungary or Belgium, who play on Sunday.