Spain 0-0 Sweden: Should Spain be worried by Euro 2020 opening draw?
After a bold squad selection that angered large parts of the Spanish media, it was never going to take much for the pressure to increase on manager Luis Enrique.
So Spain’s 0-0 draw against Sweden – which leaves them behind Slovakia in Group E – was far from an ideal start to Euro 2020.
At the final whistle in Seville, the hosts were whistled by some home fans and the players left talking about “shutting up” their critics.
So are Spain in a spot of trouble or will they come good?
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Could striking problems undermine Spain’s chances?
Spain enjoyed near total domination against Sweden: 85% possession and a remarkable 917 passes – the highest figures in a European Championship match since 1980 – which is as far back as Opta’s records go for such data.
But for all their fine approach play, they lacked a cutting edge.
In the first half alone, Dani Olmo saw a header tipped away, Koke sliced an effort past the post and Alvaro Morata, the number nine, side-footed limply wide after being allowed in on goal by a defensive mistake.
Morata’s selection had been one of the key dilemmas for the manager going into the match and he was picked ahead of Gerard Moreno, the Villarreal forward who scored 30 goals last season.
It did not pay off.
“If 10 passes equalled a goal, how far ahead would Spain be?” asked former England international Karen Carney. “I keep thinking about Belgium and Romelu Lukaku. A number nine who is in red-hot form is all Spain are missing. They have everything bar that centre forward.”
“Spain only have themselves to blame,” said ex-England captain Alan Shearer. “They created enough chances. The reason they didn’t score was because of their shocking finishing.”
Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte, making his first tournament appearance for Spain, defended Morata.
“We know what he can do,” he said. “It didn’t go in for him today it’s true, but in the next game he can score three and shut everyone’s mouth. Let’s hope so. We have to win the next match.”
Whistling? ‘I wish they wouldn’t’
Spain may take heart from the fact they have had a slow start to a tournament before and gone on to succeed. In fact, in 2010 they were beaten 1-0 by Switzerland in their first match and subsequently won the World Cup.
This time they play all three group games in Seville and will hope to have more support from the home fans for their next two matches, against Poland and Slovakia.
“If the crowd whistled at all they shouldn’t be nervous, and I wish they wouldn’t,” said defender Marcos Llorente. “We’ve got two group games left and the support of our fans is a great help.”
Laporte added: “The team leave feeling bad after all the effort we made and the chances we created but we have two games left and we’ll try to do better. If we played like that in 10 games we’d have won nine of them.
“We’re not worried, it wasn’t meant to be today but it’ll come off for us in the next game.”
“Of course we want to see that support from the fans,” said Luis Enrique.
“That’s football though. It would have been nice to dedicate a win to the fans because they were fantastic for most of the game.”
‘Not the end of the world’
Cesc Fabregas was a part of that 2010 squad and he expects Spain to get out of the group comfortably enough.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” he told BBC One. “Spain have enough quality to at least go through the group stage.
“They need to look at the first half, they did good things there, although they didn’t take their chances.
“Spain didn’t lose. It is not the end of the world and I believe they will grow up. We need to improve, for sure.”
Whether they improve is one thing, but Spanish football expert Guillem Balague says whatever they do, they will not change their approach.
“A lot of things Spain did were wonderful, there were lovely triangles in midfield and out wide with the full-backs, but then eventually when they had to make the last pass that didn’t happen often enough,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“So it was very frustrating because this is it, this is all Spain have got. This is what we will see for the next two games.”
Luis Enrique added: “We still aspire to win the group. If not we’ll aim for second and if we can’t do that we’ll try to be one of the best third-placed teams.”