Spain poor at both ends of the pitch against Sweden

'Spain have a decent team, box to box', I headlined my article yesterday and that was exactly the case against Sweden in their opening game of Euro 2020. They took charge of the game, looked to attack constantly and ensured most of the play was nearer Olsen’s goal throughout the match. But they struggled in both boxes, as tends to be the case. They had few shots and the ones they had were poor. And at the back, two moves from Isak caused panic. One finished with the ball hitting the post, after deflecting off Llorente; the other ended with Berg missing an open goal because the ball bounced badly. It would hardly have been fair if Sweden had won the game, but it could have happened, because Spain, just like against Portugal, were incapable of scoring.

Sweden's approach against Spain

There are excuses. Sweden set out their stall in the classic fashion of a weaker team playing superior opponents. Physically strong, very tall, and tight at the back. Added to that, the pitch wasn’t in good shape. They don’t play much football at that stadium and the turf just isn’t good enough for modern day football. It’s a 1970s ground that doesn’t shape up to today’s standards. Not only is the pitch not smooth, but the grass had been left long and hadn’t been properly watered. The heat of the day required more water. The conditions weren’t impossible, but they didn’t favour quick, precise football, of the sort that might have opened up the Swedish defence. And the problem will be repeated.

Spain did have chances

Even so, Spain had a number of chances, two of which were saved by Olsen. Unfortunately, the crowd’s impatience was taken out on Morata, who missed two great chances, particularly the first, and spent his time sacrificing himself to put pressure on the Swedes. Halfway through the second half, with the team running out of steam, Luis Enrique took the bite out of the attack completely and put on Thiago to spark the midfield into life. It seemed to work, but didn’t last long. The match at least proved that Gerard Moreno is in form and is a more dangerous attacker than Morata, but he didn’t score either. Sweden headed off happy, leaving us miserable.