Spain’s new team struggled with the familiar problems on Monday as a string of missed chances allowed Sweden to hang on for a goalless draw in their Euro 2020 opener in Seville.
La Roja were all over Sweden throughout an entertaining first half, dominating possession and coming close on several occasions without finding the back of the net.
Alvaro Morata missed a glorious chance to open the scoring in the 38th minute when he found himself alone in the box with only the keeper to beat, but he missed the target altogether and the game went into the break in a 0-0 draw.
Alvaro Morata wasted the best opportunity of a dominant first half, in which Spain churned out 419 passes, the most of any team on record in the opening 45 minutes of a European Championship fixture.
A goalless draw leaves Spain playing catch-up in Group E after Slovakia earlier pulled off a shock 2-1 victory over Poland, raising the stakes for the game between Spain and Poland on Saturday, when a loser would be left struggling to qualify.
With Alvaro Morata I saw two reactions, one was perhaps more critical, but I’ll focus on the second one from the fans, supporting and singing his name,” said Spain manager Luis Enrique. “As coach, my job is to try to improve and protect my players, of course I’m happier with the reaction of the crowd in the second half when they sang his name. We all want to feel loved.
His team were impressive in the first half, a far cry from some of the ponderous passing displays that made Spain look out of date in recent major tournaments.
But the second half drifted, perhaps through a lack of confidence or even sharpness, given the team were unable to train together for most of last week, separated according to the protocol after Sergio Busquets, still absent, and Diego Llorente tested positive for Covid-19.
Sweden coach Janne Andersson, meanwhile, promised on Sunday his team would “run like hell” and they not only defended resolutely but carved out arguably the two best chances of the match.
Isak, the 21-year-old, who scored 17 goals for Real Sociedad last season, showed why he is one of the most rated young strikers in Europe and Spain would have been relieved when Andersson took him off with 20 minutes left.
The Spanish host city was switched to Seville after Bilbao was unable to guarantee UEFA’s desired number of fans and with 12,517 supporters inside La Cartuja, the atmosphere was as warm as the weather, with the temperature over 30 degrees Celsius.
Kick-off was briefly delayed while one of the nets was fixed and on the sideline, Luis Enrique sat perched on the edge of an ice-box.
His team swarmed all over Sweden in the opening 10 minutes, racking up 100 passes to their opponents’ 13.
All Spain lacked was a finishing touch as Jordi Alba and Ferran Torres fired over early crosses before Dani Olmo’s header was brilliantly pushed wide by Robin Olsen.
Both teams made changes for the last 20 minutes, among them Isak going off for Sweden and Morata departing for Spain, replaced by Gerard Moreno.
Spain surged in the final minutes and Moreno almost grabbed a winner, his flicked header flying towards goal but kept out by the right foot of Olsen, who intervened again in injury time to deny Pablo Sarabia.
This was a deeply frustrating start to the tournament for three-time European champions Spain, who broke a competition record for the most passes in the first half while ending the game with 85% possession and 917 passes, according to Opta.