ALL the talk in and around the Spain camp beforehand was about who would be keeping the ball OUT of the net.
Maybe they should have focused more on who was going to put it IN.
Alvaro Morata missed a sitter as Spain were held to a 0-0 draw by SwedenCredit: AP
Luis Enrique’s men dominated possession and created plenty of chances but could not find the targetCredit: AP
The three-times winners got their 2020 campaign off to a disappointing start as they wasted a stack of chances against a bog-standard Swedish side.
It capped a miserable week for the Spaniards, whose preparations were marred by a coronavirus outbreak.
Luis Enrique saw his stars dominate their Group E opener but unlike the Covid vaccines they had to take last week, they failed to break the skin.
The disgruntled home fans certainly would have had even more of the needle with their coach had Sweden’s Alexander Isak and Marcus Berg not missed sitters on rare counter attacks either side of the break.
Enrique ended weeks of speculation about who would play in goal by selecting Unai Simon over David De Gea – just when the Manchester United man thought his season could not get any worse.
In truth, Athletic Bilbao keeper Simon did what was asked of him – but then with a name like that he was always going to.
As for Sweden, they were delighted with a draw.
Janne Andersson’s boys probably could believe how wasteful their opponents were in front of goal.
Dani Olmo looked distraught after fluffing another opportunityCredit: AP
Alexander Isak was Sweden’s only attacking threat in a one-sided matchCredit: EPA
They will have to attack more in their matches against Slovakia and Poland – while Spain need to be more clinical if they are to take the heat off under-fire Enrique.
The former Real Madrid and Barcelona player showed once again he is his own man and not afraid to make unpopular calls.
He did it when he overlooked Sergio Ramos, thus not including a single player from Real Madrid in his squad.
He did so when he stubbornly insisted on naming just 24 players in his group, rather than take up UEFA’s full quota of 26.
And he did it again by selecting Simon instead of De Gea.
It is a little over two years to the day since Spain thrashed Sweden 3-0 in a 2020 qualifier.
Spain will be wondering how they failed to score against the SwedesCredit: EPA
Morata had a torrid time in front of goal on MondayCredit: AFP
The nations then drew 1-1 in Solna in October 2019 as the Spaniards finished top of their group ahead of the Swedes.
Spain have not made it past the last 16 of a major Finals since winning this tournament back in 2012.
Enrique knows another early exit here and he will not be the only one sweating in Seville.
After another sweltering day in Spain’s fourth largest city, the temperature at the Estadio La Cartuja was still 30 degrees when this clash kicked off at 9pm local time.
Security around the ground was also red-hot with Spain’s King Felipe watching from the stands.
Sweden worked their socks off to keep the Spanish at bayCredit: Reuters
The result leaves the whole group open following Slovakia’s surprise win over PolandCredit: EPA
The monarch saw his nation start the brighter with Dani Olmo blazing their first real chance over the bar from inside the area in the sixth minute after the Swedes had failed to clear a corner.
Leipzig star Olmo then had a close-range header from Koke’s delicious cross brilliantly kept out by the left palm of Sweden’s Everton stopper Robin Olsen – when a goal looked a certainty.
Swedish fans, who had been loud all day in every sense as they sat outside the local bars and cafes dressed in their yellow shirts, were reduced to an uneasy silence as their heroes struggled to get a foot on the ball let alone a foothold in the game.
You could hear a collective Scandic sigh of relief when Koke drilled a 23rd minute shot only inches wide following a dreadful gaffe from Mikael Lustig just outside his own six-yard box.
The Atletico ace was causing the Swedes all sorts of problems but sadly he could not get over the ball when he arrived perfectly on the end of Olmo’s centre, sending it way over the target.
Such was Spain’s superiority, Simon did not have a ‘save’ to make until he had to tip Sebastian Larsson’s overhit cross over the bar in the 36th minute – with the Swedes high-fiving their skipper like it was a genuine attempt on goal.
Alvaro Morata should have put the hosts ahead moments later but with only keeper Olsen to beat he sidefooted wide.
And it almost proved costly as Sweden, having offered nothing for almost the entire first half, nearly went into the internal ahead as Alexander Isak shrugged Ayermic Laporte before scuffing a shot which Marcos Llorente diverted the ball onto his own post before it rebounded into the arms of his keeper Simon.
When Morata dragged a shot wide from another favourable position at the start of the second half, the natives began to get restless.
Their mood hardly improved when another Sweden counter ended with Marcus Berg slicing the ball high and wide from just a few yards out in the 62nd minute.
It was the miss of the night – and that is saying something.
As the fourth official held up the board for six minutes of stoppage time, the Spanish armada turned into the Alamo as Gerard Moreno had a close-rage header saved by Olsen, who was then grateful to flop onto Pablo Sarabia’s weak effort.
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