BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Switzerland's extraordinary comeback to eliminate world champions France from the European Championship on Monday drew superlatives from both coach and captain after their penalty shootout success.
Manager Vladimir Petkovic and skipper Granit Xhaka hailed the achievement of the first Swiss side to reach the last eight of a major tournament since they hosted the World Cup in 1954 after fighting back to draw 3-3 and advance 5-4 on spot kicks.
“No normal side would have come back from 3-1 down against the world champions,” said Petkovic, who equalled the record for the most matches in charge of the Switzerland team.
Xhaka said they had written a new chapter, which was particularly satisfying after the stinging criticism that followed their 3-0 loss to Italy in Rome on June 16 in tehir second Group A match.
“I’ve always said this team deserved a lot more than you can read," he told the post-match news conference.
"There was so much discussion about this team. They said we were arrogant but I can guarantee you one thing, we really wrote a history. All Swiss people can be really proud. We achieved something that is impossible to describe with words.
“I had a positive feeling and in my opinion we played a perfect first half. Then we missed a penalty and conceded three goals. This was a slap in the face but we committed mistakes.
"But that we still turned it around against a team such as France, with all the top players in their ranks, is just unbelievable," Xhaka added.
“It was the 65th or the 68th minute, I looked up at the stadium clock, it was a corner against us and I said to Yann (Sommer), we have to wake up or this will all be over.
“It was too early to give up, we had 25 minutes left and I knew when we pulled it back to 3-2, we could go on and equalise.
"We were the better team and we wanted to win the match then in extra time. Then, in the end, we were lucky that we have a great goalkeeper to save the penalty.”
Petkovic, who has coached the Swiss over the last seven years, said his side had reached a new level.
“I will be asking for the same from them again,” he said of their quarter-final with Spain in St Petersburg on Friday.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)