GENEVA (AP) – World Cup winner, European champion with Spain and Real Madrid, and expert penalty taker, Sergio Ramos has scored in his last 25 penalty kicks.
On the eve of the European men’s 177th international appearance on Saturday, he was given two chances from the penalty spot to celebrate with a goal.
Ramos missed them both.
Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer got it right twice, and dived right, to save in the 57th and 80th minutes. Although the first scored well, the second was a flat and slow flop of a chip attempt and left Spain trailing by a goal.
Ramos avoided further embarrassment with substitute Gerard Moreno firing an 89th-minute equalizer in the 1-1 draw in the Nations League.
Even so, Spain coach Luis Enrique will not lose faith in his captain who is one of the most formidable defenders in world football.
“Ramos didn’t miss 25 attempts,” says Enrique. “If there is a third penalty, he will take it too. And the fourth, and the fifth. “
Ramos’ drama, as he surpassed Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s record 176 international matches in Europe, caught the eye of a top-class goal that gave Switzerland the lead in the 26th minute.
Remo Freuler’s technique was perfect for directing an angled half-volley that went up and flew beyond Spain goalkeeper Unai Simón.
Spain’s defeat in Switzerland put Germany in the lead in the top-tier Group 4 of the Nations League ahead of their decisive meeting on Tuesday in Seville.
Germany won 3-1 against a Ukrainian team that lost four players to positive for COVID-19 on Friday.
Although Ukraine took a surprising early advantage, Leroy Sane immediately equalized for the 2014 World Cup winner. Timo Werner then scored twice on his return to the Leipzig stadium where he made a name for himself before moving the offseason to Chelsea.
France became the first team to advance to the Final Four Nations League next year, beat defending champions Portugal 1-0 in Lisbon.
The second half was scored by midfielder N’Golo Kanté who pounced on a loose ball that was fouled by Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
“They proved tonight that France are still a great team,” said coach Didier Deschamps.
Even without the injured Kylian Mbappe, France are sure to top Group 3 ahead of completing their program against Sweden on Tuesday.
The top four group winners qualify for a mini knockout tournament scheduled for October, and will be hosted by the winners of Group 1. It will be Italy, Poland or the Netherlands.
Sweden increased their chances of avoiding relegation to the second tier by beating Croatia 2-1 on Saturday.
For the first time on Saturday, UEFA canceled a Nations League match due to COVID-19 infection.
Norway was scheduled to play in Romania on Sunday, but was unable to travel after the player was ordered into quarantine by home health authorities.
Norway risk losing 3-0 by forfeit for not meeting the scheduled match in Bucharest. There are no dates clearly available on the international calendar to match matches.
UEFA said it was sending the case to its disciplinary committee for a decision.
Norway are currently level with Austria at the top of their group in the second division B League. They will meet in Vienna on Tuesday in the final.
LOW LEVEL GAME
In Liga C, Montenegro is one point ahead in Group 1 over Luxembourg, who lost to last-placed Cyprus 2-1.
Montenegro drew 0-0 against Azerbaijan in the second half with 10 players. Matches resumed in neutral Croatia as UEFA decided Azerbaijan could not host home matches during the conflict with neighboring Armenia.
In the fourth tier of League D, Malta beat Andorra 3-1 and are three points behind leaders of Group 1 of the Faroe Islands who next host. Faroes missed a chance to seal promotion by drawing 1-1 in Latvia.
In the three Group 2 teams, leaders Gibraltar drew at San Marino 0-0 and next hosts Liechtenstein finished second.
CHANGES IN ICELAND
Iceland coach Erik Hamrén will leave his job a few days after losing in the European Championship playoffs.
Leading 1-0 after 87 minutes in Hungary on Thursday, Iceland conceded two goals towards the end of a third major tournament in succession.
Hamrén said at a press conference on Saturday that he would step down after the Nations League games against Denmark on Sunday and England on Wednesday.
The Sweden coach, who guided his home country to the European Cup in 2012 and 2016, said: “World Cup qualification starts in March and it is better in my mind that someone else will take over.”
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