Spain began Euro 2020 with a frustrating 0-0 draw against Sweden as their lack of cutting edge in attack was borne out.
Luis Enrique’s side enjoyed long spells of possession – a staggering 85% – and had the best of the chances, in the Group E encounter in Seville, but could not find a winner.
Alvaro Morata was guilty of squandering Spain’s best opportunity when he fired wide with just Robin Olsen to beat.
An obdurate Sweden side executed their tactical plan to stifle Spain superbly and did threaten at the other end with Alexander Isak hitting the post.
Spain initially looked to open the game from wide areas as they clocked up the passes with Sweden completing just two passes in the opposition half inside the opening 20 minutes.
A teasing cross from Koke brought Spain their first real chance as he picked out Dani Olmo only for a superb diving one-handed save from Olsen to keep out his close-range header.
Koke whistled a shot just past the post with an angled effort struck with the outside of his boot, but should have done better on the half hour when he lifted a shot over the bar from a good position.
A mistake by Marcus Danielson let Morata burst through on goal, but with Olsen rushing off his line the striker curled his shot wide while Olmo went close again from long range.
Sweden flickered into life moments before half-time when a rare foray forward saw Isak’s shot bounce off the knee of Marcos Llorente and strike the post.
Spain’s play lacked intensity in the second half and some trickery by the impressive Isak created a golden opportunity for Marcus Berg on the hour, but he fluffed his shot from close range.
Olmo saw a shot blocked by Danielson, but Spain were unable to rediscover their tempo and failed to really test Olsen as the game meandered along before a lively finish.
Gerard Moreno could have won it with a header inside the six-yard box from fellow substitute Pablo Sarabia’s clever cross, but Olsen saved instinctively with his legs.
Then at the death Sarabia failed to get a clean touch on a dangerous ball into the box with the goal at his mercy.
What does it mean? Pass masters lack cutting edge
Spain have now won only one of their last six opening matches at a major tournament, World Cup and Euro combined (1-0 v Czech Republic, Euro 2016), but there are signs this result was more than just a slow start. In the first half, Luis Enrique’s side completed 419 passes which was the highest figure in the opening 45 minutes of a European Championship game since the availability of this data in 1980 – yet they were unable to find the net.
Spain’s last 37 goals in the European Championship finals have all been scored from inside the box, but there was a worrying lack of cutting edge in the penalty area against Sweden.
Olsen embodies indefatigable Swedish spirit
It was always going to be a busy game for the Sweden goalkeeper, but he stood up to everything Spain threw at him. Olsen made five saves, commanded his box with authority and epitomised the underdog spirit.
Miserable night for Morata
Spain’s victories at Euro 2008 and 2012 were underpinned by the clinical finishing of David Villa and Fernando Torres, but Morata is not of the same class. None of his three shots were on target and presented with his side’s best chance to win the game, he fired wide.
Spain face Poland in Seville on Saturday while Sweden are in Group E action against Slovakia in Saint Petersburg on Friday.
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