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Spain draw against Sweden in Euro 2020 opener

  • June 15, 2021

Spain began their
Euro 2020 campaign with a goalless draw against Sweden in Seville on Monday.

Alvaro Morata wasted the best opportunity of a dominant
first half, in which Spain churned out 419 passes, the most of any team on
record in the opening 45 minutes of a European Championship fixture.

But Luis Enrique’s team lost their rhythm after the interval
and Sweden might even have won it, the excellent Alexander Isak hitting the
post before his strike partner Marcus Berg missed a sitter from two yards out.

A goalless draw leaves Spain playing catch-up in Group E
after Slovakia earlier pulled off a shock 2-1 victory over Poland, raising the
stakes for the game between Spain and Poland on Saturday, when a loser would be
left struggling to qualify.

Another failure to convert possession into chances was
reminiscent of recent disappointments for Spain, most notably when they were
frustrated by Russia at the 2018 World Cup, before going out on penalties.

In the wake of that defeat, Luis Enrique was tasked with
launching a new era as coach, a project that involved promoting a fresh crop of
players but also a more direct, penetrative style.

His team were impressive in the first half, a far cry from
some of the ponderous passing displays that made Spain look out of date in
recent major tournaments. 

But the second half drifted, perhaps through a lack of
confidence or even sharpness, given the team were unable to train together for
most of last week, separated according to protocol after Sergio Busquets, still
absent, and Diego Llorente tested positive for Covid-19.

Sweden coach Janne Andersson, meanwhile, promised on Sunday
his team would “run like hell” and they not only defended resolutely
but carved out arguably the two best chances of the match.

Ibrahimovic’s heir
apparent Isak impresses

Isak, the 21-year-old, who scored 17 goals for Real Sociedad
last season, showed why he is one of the most rated young strikers in Europe
and Spain would have been relieved when Andersson took him off with 20 minutes

The Spanish host city was switched to Seville after Bilbao
was unable to guarantee UEFA’s desired number of fans and with 12,517
supporters inside La Cartuja, the atmosphere was as warm as the weather, with
the temperature over 30 degrees Celsius.

Kick-off was briefly delayed while one of the nets was fixed
and on the sideline Luis Enrique sat perched on the edge of an ice-box.

His team swarmed all over Sweden in the opening 10 minutes,
racking up 100 passes to their opponents’ 13.

All Spain lacked was a finishing touch as Jordi Alba and
Ferran Torres fired over early crosses before Dani Olmo’s header was
brilliantly pushed wide by Robin Olsen.

Twenty minutes was up before Sweden found a foothold in
Spain’s half, a throw-in up the pitch prompting Andersson to leap off the bench
and applaud.

But Spain kept passing and the chances kept coming, Koke
steering wide after another tired Sweden touch in the area and then ballooning
over after he met Alba’s ball in.

The best opportunity fell to Morata, the ball finding him in
the box after Marcus Danielsson failed to clear Alba’s clip, but with the goal
gaping he curled his finish wide.

Already, Spain seemed to feel the weight of their misses and
Sweden almost landed a sucker-punch, Isak’s finish diverted by Marcos Llorente
onto his own post.

The game drifted after the break and Spain faded, their
earlier urgency fizzling into something much less convincing. Sweden should
have taken the lead as Isak twisted and turned in the box, making enough space
to drag a ball to the back post where somehow Berg failed to score.

Both teams made changes for the last 20 minutes, among them
Isak going off for Sweden and Morata departing for Spain, replaced by Gerard

Spain surged in the final minutes and Moreno almost grabbed
a winner, his flicked header flying towards goal but kept out by the right foot
of Olsen, who intervened again in injury time to deny Pablo Sarabia.

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