The best word to sum up Spain’s Euro 2020 opener against Sweden.
For all of their dominance: 86% possession, 917 passes with a 90% accuracy rate, and 17 shots, albeit only five on target – Luis Enrique’s side were unable to make the breakthrough. The first half was one of the most one-sided performances from any side at any Championships.
Sweden stood rigid to the onslaught, and could well have won the match themselves – despite offering little going forward and creating a handful of chances.
Former international, Cesc Fabregas, who was part of La Roja’s squad that won both the 2008 and 2012 Championships was critical during his punditry of the match for the BBC, and quite rightly felt the frustrations too.
Even at this early stage of the tournament, you’re unlikely to find many Spain stars in the running for the Player of the Tournament betting market. In fact, at the time of writing, their best hope, according to the bookmakers, is Thiago Alcantara – and the midfielder only played the final 25 minutes, coming on for Rodri.
Before a single ball was even kicked at Euro 2020, much talk focused on Enrique’s bold squad selection. The former Barcelona boss had omitted all players on the books for Real Madrid – the first time the national side would play at a major tournament without any Los Blancos stars.
There was no place for captain, Sergio Ramos, which was met by most of the criticism – despite the veteran having a much-blighted campaign in the capital, hampered by injuries. Enrique was bold with his statementon the omission:
“Ramos has not been able to compete this season, he has not been able to train with the group,” he said.
“I clearly see that it’s a complicated decision. I recommended that he be selfish and that he regains his level to play in his club and in the national team.”
The likes of Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez were ruled out through injury, and then there were players like Isco and Marco Asensio who were excluded, most likely due to a lack of form.
But there was further controversy when Enrique announced a 24-man squad, when the rules were extended for this year’s tournament to permit squads of 26 players. It would have been the perfect opportunity to make a u-turn decision and callup his talisman – with leadership qualities and experience needed both on and off the pitch. Again, his stubbornness came through.
Then there was pre-tournament drama. Five days before the start of Euro 2020, long-standing midfielder, Sergio Busquets, tested positive for covid-19 and was sent home. Consequently, Spain had to pull out of their warm-up game against Lithuania, with the U-21 squad fulfilling the match, which has since been confirmed as a full international – and the full squad and backroom staff were tested.
Enrique jokingly said that he should have settled on a squad of 23 because the more players you have, the more chance you have of recording a positive test.
Goals have proved a problem for Spain. This was emphasised in their previous warm-up game against Portugal – another 0-0 draw at the Metropolitano, home to La Liga champions Atlético Madrid. Alvaro Morata led the line in a 4-3-3 formation that evening, too. And just like then, the former Chelsea man squandered his chances in their opening match of Euro 2020 too.
Gerard Moreno, the Villarreal forward who scored 30 goals last season, came on for the final 25 minutes, in the scorching Seville heat, but also spurned opportunities late on – causing the home crowd to whistle the players off the pitch, come full time.
As has been proven at previous tournaments, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and there’s still a long way to go yet. Spain will need to find a way of making their dominance pay in their remaining group games, or criticism will fall heavily on Enrique’s shoulders.