Defending champion Italy knocked out of Euro 2024 by Switzerland in last 16

Defending champion Italy knocked out of Euro 2024 by Switzerland in last 16
Switzerland's Remo Freuler celebrates after scoring the first goal of the round of 16.  Matthias Schrader/AP CNN — 

Goals from Remo Freuler and Ruben Vargas either side of halftime were enough for Murat Yakin’s side to book its place in the next round, as a sluggish Italy side which struggled to get a foothold in the game suffered an earlier than planned exit.

Switzerland’s early dominance was eventually rewarded in the 37th minute, as Freuler picked up the ball inside the penalty area from Vargas before his slightly deflected effort towards the near post with Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma unable to keep out.

Swiss supporters didn’t have to wait long after the break for a second goal – only 27 seconds to be exact. Italy’s continued sloppiness on the ball carried over into the second half, immediately giving the ball away from it’s own kickoff. Switzerland worked their way forward before Vargas curled a stunning effort from the edge of the box into the top right corner to leave the Italians reeling.

While Switzerland deservedly advanced, it was an uncharacteristically out-of-sorts performance for Italy, who’s defense of its title ends in the first knockout game of the tournament.

Italy’s defeat means that the reigning champion has been eliminated in the round of 16 at the last three Euros.

Switzerland now awaits the winner of Sunday’s matchup between England and Slovakia to find out who it will face in the quarterfinals.

Vargas celebrates with his teammates after making it 2-0.

Italy was without defender Riccardo Calafiori – who has emerged as one of the tournament’s breakout stars – due to suspension, with Gianluca Mancini starting in his place.

It was a cagey opening to the game, with clear-cut chances hard to come by. Switzerland started the brighter of the two sides, keeping Italy out of possession with an effective press, though the compact Italian defense prevented the Swiss side from having any real sights of goal in the opening 20 minutes.

Switzerland was able to pick holes in the Italy backline eventually though, with Breel Embolo latching onto a through-ball over the top around the 20-minute mark. However, the striker squandered a gilt-edged chance, firing a tame effort against the palms of Donnarumma.

The game appeared to spark into life at this point, with veteran forward Stephan El Shaarawy jinking past a pair of Swiss defenders before seeing his shot on goal blocked by Manuel Akanji.

 Vargas vies for the ball with Italy's Gianluca Mancini.

Italy’s struggles playing out from the back persisted throughout the first half and was frequently pinned back by the constant press.

Switzerland defender Ricardo Rodriguez attempted to break the deadlock in spectacular fashion but his effort from long range sailed over the crossbar.

The breakthrough did come shortly after though for Switzerland; with red shirts flooding into the box, Vargas picked out Freuler who managed to squeeze his shot from close range past Donnarumma.

The Azzurri, who had gone behind for the fourth game in a row, was unable to really trouble the Swiss defense in the opening 45 minutes and didn’t show any signs of improving after going behind.

Switzerland almost doubled its lead shortly before halftime when Fabian Rieder attempted to catch Donnarumma off-guard with a whipped free kick from the right flank, but the Italian keeper scrambled across his goal to tip the strike onto the near post.

Yakin’s team showed no signs of easing up after the break, with Vargas scoring the second-fastest second-half goal in Euros history, per the BBC.

A stroke of luck very nearly got Luciano Spalletti’s side back into the game, with Swiss defender Fabian Schär invertedly heading the ball against his own post with goalkeeper Yann Sommer rooted to the spot.

Freuler fires home to open the scoring.

Italy showed slightly more attacking intent after going two goals down, often finding space down the flanks through Federico Chiesa and Mattia Zaccagni, though it struggled to convert this threat into goalscoring opportunities.

The Azzuri’s best chance of the game came in the 73rd minute when Gianluca Scamacca’s poked shot from close range struck the woodwork, before Nicolò Fagioli fired well over from distance.

Ultimately however, the Euro 2020 champion was unable to produce anything of substance in an uninspiring performance other than the occasional long-range strike against a well-organized and relentless Swiss team that looked dangerous every time it was on the ball.