Dubai: In games like these you need a moment of magic to break the deadlock and Spain, for all the records they set during the 90 minutes, failed to deliver. Should they be worried by this opening game draw?
They amassed 85% of possession which is the most by any team at the Euros. They also set a new record at the tournament for most passes in the first half (419) most passes in the opposing half (303) and unsurprisingly, most passes in a match (917). Sweden made just 38 passes in the Spanish half, the fewest by any team at the Euros which tells you all you need to know about this game. Without a shadow of a doubt, Spain bossed it – but then why couldn’t they score?
Two banks of four
Well, credit goes to Sweden who set their stall out to defend with two banks of four designed to make life difficult for Spain. It wasn’t a display for the purists, but it was their only option in this clash. Had they tried to match up to their opponents, they would probably have been picked apart. So, a cautious approach it was and in the end it got them a point which could turn out to be crucial as the tournament progresses.
Luis Enrique’s side had all of the play. The stats showed that they had 17 attempts at goal to Sweden’s 4 but ironically, it was the Swedes who had the two best chances of the match. In the first half, Isak saw his shot deflected onto the post by Laporte while in the second half, Berg somehow managed to put the ball over the bar from just two yards out. Morata should have done better when he was left with just keeper Olsen to beat but curled his effort wide.
As the second half worse on, Sweden retreated further and further back. It seemed a dangerous ploy to invite the Spaniards onto them and you felt the deadlock would eventually be broken. They had to count on Olsen on several occasions to keep them in the game but for all of Spain’s patient approach play, possession, record number of passes and general dominance, they fell short in the end and that will worry them.
The other two teams in the Group E, Russia and Slovakia, may have taken note of events last night and adopt similar tactics and aim to frustrate La Roja who will need to be more cunning and find a way to get their noses in front of cagey games otherwise they may struggle to advance to the last 16. It was far from an ideal start to Euro 2020 and they’ll need to find a cutting edge or they could be in trouble.
But, they have made slow starts before, such as their opener at the 2010 World Cup against Switzerland, and it certainly didn’t hamper their progress then as they went on to lift the trophy. Enrique and co will be hoping last night was just a blip but the pressure is on.