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Reigning champions Italy sent packing by super Swiss strikes

BERLIN, Germany : A pair of superb strikes from Remo Freuler and Ruben Vargas for Switzerland sent defending champions Italy crashing out of the European soccer championship in the round of 16 after a sloppy, rudderless display by Luciano Spalletti's side.

Though the Swiss defended well, the Italians made their job all the easier with bad passing and poor-decision-making, giving the ball away cheaply in central positions and failing to press with any vigour as they headed for the exit.

After a slow, tenuous start on a sweltering evening in Berlin, Switzerland should have taken the lead in the 24th minute when Breel Embolo was played in, but his attempt to wait out Gianluigi Donnarumma didn't succeed and the Italian goalkeeper comfortably parried his curled shot.

Looking far more like defending champions than the men in blue, the Swiss breakthrough came 13 minutes later with brilliantly-worked goal as they pulled the Italians out of position, Freuler hammering the ball home from a pin-point pass by Vargas.

Whatever Spalletti said at half-time did not have the desired effect and his side were two down within a minute, with Italy's ponderous, flat-footed defence taking on a spectator's role as Vargas curled a stunning shot into the top corner.

The Swiss almost threw the Italians a lifeline in the 51st minute as Fabian Schaer's glancing header wrong-footed keeper Yann Sommer, leaving him to watch helplessly as the ball bounced up and kissed the far post before being cleared.

With the clock ticking ominously, the Italian players seemed paralysed in the face of the Swiss defence, resorting to speculative long shots that did little to trouble Sommer.

The woodwork intervened again in the 74th minute as Gianluca Scammacca scuffed