Spain suffer goalless draw against Sweden

AFP, Seville

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. 

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. 

Morata was whistled by his own fans when substituted with 25 minutes left, with Luis Enrique now facing questions over his decision to leave out Gerard Moreno, the Villarreal striker who scored 23 goals last season.

Spain lost their rhythm after the interval and Sweden might even have won it, the excellent Alexander Isak hitting the post before his strike partner Marcus Berg missed a sitter from two yards out. 

"They decided to defend, defend and defend. It was a very unfair result," said Luis Enrique, who also complained about the pitch. "The players struggled to control the ball," he said.

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. 

Another failure to convert possession into chances was reminiscent of recent disappointments for Spain, most notably when they were frustrated by Russia at the 2018 World Cup, before going out on penalties. 

In the wake of that defeat, Luis Enrique was tasked with launching a new era as coach, a project that involved promoting a fresh crop of players but also a more direct, penetrative style. 

His team were impressive in the first half, a far cry from some of the ponderous passing displays that made Spain look out of date in recent major tournaments.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 protocol after Sergio Busquets, still absent, and Diego Llorente tested positive for Covid-19. 

Sweden coach JanneAndersson, 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.