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Spain 0-0 Sweden: Control but no goals

An admittedly Villarreal-centric look at Spain’s opening match.

Spain v Portugal - International Friendly Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Spain began its EURO 2020/21 perfomance with a goalless draw against Sweden. To cut to the chase for Yellow Submarine fans, Villarreal’s Pau Torres partnered Aymeric Laporte (how often do we see two left-footed centerbacks on the pitch at the same time?). Gerard Moreno was on the bench—there was some suggestion he might have picked up a niggle in training, but then again, Luis Enrique seems to be uniquely enamored of Alvaro Morata at the top of a 4-3-3, with Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres alongside.

The Spanish NT preparations were certainly affected by COVID issues, and the match itself was moved to La Cartuja from San Mamés for those reasons. Whether you view the glass as half full or half empty depends somewhat on your assessment of how much any of this affected Spain—Luis Enrique said the pitch was bumpy (it was pretty poor) but....well, anyway.

Spain bossed the first half and could have scored something like two or three goals but the Swedish keeper kept out a smash from Dani Olmo, and then the best chance of the half fell to Alvaro Morata who couldn’t even find the target after being played in nicely with only the keeper to beat. Morata made some nice runs off the ball, but hitting a barn with a banjo seemed to be beyond him.

Sweden did virtually nothing at all except defend, but had a great chance to score from their only real attack of the half when Alexandre Isak’s shot was turned against the post by Llorente with goalkeeper Simón beaten.

HT Spain 0-0 Sweden

If the first half was dominated by incisive passes by Spain (especially Alba and Llorente) but no real end product, the first 30 minutes of the second half was rather less impressive. Maybe it was the recent vaccine jabs Spain got, maybe it was the heat, maybe it was just tiredness given the inability of the team to practice together over the last week, but the pace of play slowed down considerably. Koke and Llorente were much less a factor.

Again, Sweden actually had the best chance to score—a one-two with Isak and Berg left the latter with a golden opportunity in front of a wide-open net, but he completely lost the plot and miskicked.

Finally, after 75 minutes, Enrique brought on Gerard Moreno, and the effect was at least somewhat pleasing (I say “somewhat” because Gerard was playing in the middle, not on the right....did Luis Enrique watch any Villarreal matches?). Isak was withdrawn for some reason after 70 minutes, which spelled the end of any real Swedish threat.

Gerard had a couple of headed chances, testing keeper Olsen once, and was far more active in 15 minutes than his predecessor had been in 75. Also worth noting the introduction of Gerard and Oyarzabal re-energized Pedri who looked good the last 15 minutes. Even so....

FT Spain 0-0 Sweden

Villarreal assessment: Ex-cantera man (and first teamer) Rodri and Pau both had solid games, though without a really speedy central defender Sweden showed how Spain can be opened up with incisive counterattacks.

Gerard looked OK but really would fare much better playing on the right of a 4-3-3 with someone else in the middle—even Morata, dare I say.

Stats Line: Spain 75-25 possession, 17-3 shots, 6-1 get the idea. But 0-0 where it really counts.

Alvaro Morata Drinking Game Results: As defined by Zach (and others) on the internet, the rule for this is you take one drink per offside, two drinks per good chance missed.

Four drinks today, then; two offside calls, and a glorious chance spurned in the first half.

At the rate Morata is going, either you’ll need to sub out some of the alcoholic drinks for softer stuff, or else watch these matches from home so you’re not driving anywhere. Just saying.

Next Up for Spain: Poland, 2-1 losers to Slovakia, on June 19. A must-win match for La Roja, I’d say.