Spain dominated Sweden in their Euro 2020 opener, but still couldn’t score

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Despite enduring an interrupted preparation, Spain still utterly dominated Sweden in their Euro 2020 opener in Seville.

The only thing is, they didn’t score.

In fact, Sweden arguably had two of the best chances of the game, one in each half from Alexander Isak and Marcus Berg.

In the first half, Alexander Isak stole in behind the defence and slammed a shot into the foot of the covering Marcus Llorente on the line, which deflected the ball onto the post where it rebounded into the hands of Unai Simón.

In the second half, Isak handed Berg a golden chance in a plate, squaring the ball to his unmarked strike partner at the back post, where the Krasnodar man inexplicably scooped over the bar.

The numbers behind Spain’s dominance are staggering:

  • Spain had a whopping 75 per cent possession
  • Spanish players completed 840 passes to Sweden’s 106
  • The Spanish attempted 17 attempts on goal but, tellingly, just five of those were on target

Three of those shots on target were in the first half, and the other two came in the 89th and 93rd minute of the game through a Gerard Moreno header and a mis-control at the back post from Pablo Sarabia.

Spain’s attacking three fail to fire

Sweden's Robin Olsen makes a save against Spain
For all their dominance, the Spanish did not hit the target often enough. When they did, Robin Olsen was there to make the save for Sweden.(

AP/Pool: Julio Munoz

)

Although brilliant everywhere else on the field, Spain’s shooting was well below par.

Dani Olmo and Álvaro Morata both should have scored in the first half, particularly Morata, who slid a shot wide of the post when one-on-one with Sweden keeper Robin Olsen.

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Olsen’s save from Olmo in the opening stages was world class, and the 31-year-old stopper was equal to everything else thrown at him.

Olmo had five shots, two of them on target, in his 74 minutes on the pitch — the equal most of anyone who failed to score so far in this tournament.

Morata though, had to do better.

The 28-year-old scored 11 goals in 32 Serie A games for Juventus last season and was replaced after 65 goalless minutes in which he should certainly had one, possibly more.

His bad miss in the first half was followed by one in the second that, although not quite as glaring, should still have been finished off.

Morata is a polarising figure for Spanish supporters, who jeered him after the 0-0 draw with Portugal before the tournament got underway and similarly expressed their frustrations during this match.

Spain has now failed to score in its last two internationals. That’s as many as in their previous 51.

That lack of goalscoring prowess, which was highlighted as a possible concern prior to the tournament, could prove especially costly further on in the tournament, although most teams will be unlikely to sit as deep for as long as Sweden did.

Spain’s interrupted pre-tournament build-up

A Spanish team football manager runs his hand through his hair in frustration during a match at Euro 2020
There was no joy for Spain and manager Luis Enrique despite the team dominating for 90 minutes against Sweden.(

AP/Pool: Jose Manuel Vidal

)

That Spain couldn’t match their beautiful build-up play with any end product will be a head-scratcher for coach Luis Enrique.

What will miff Enrique most is that despite having to split his team for training after captain Sergio Busquets tested positive for COVID, they were still able to combine to well everywhere but the final third.

Spain’s interrupted build-up contained a fair litany of problems for Enrique to handle:

  • Spain’s seniors missed their last friendly due to being in COVID isolation (the under 21s were bought in to play Lithuania, and won 4-0)
  • There was a hurried team vaccination drive, where amidst fears of side-effects, most players received the single-dose Janssen jab
  • Split training sessions with players physically distanced, with no team meetings, and a parallel squad sitting in reserve

Of course, compared to 2018, where Spain sacked manager Julien Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup, this camp has been a total breeze.

Nevertheless, with a Spanish press already on edge and ready to bite after being blindsided by the fact that no Real Madrid player was selected in the squad for the first time in a generation, Enrique will want his team to fire when it takes on Poland on Sunday morning (AEST).



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