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Analysis-Soccer-Striking issues to address for Spain

·3-min read

SEVILLE, Spain (Reuters) - Spain Coach Luis Enrique was left with more questions than answers after his side dominated Sweden in their Group E opener on Monday but ended up being held to the first 0-0 draw of Euro 2020.

A first home game for Spain in a tournament finals since the 1982 World Cup began encouragingly but fizzled out into anti-climax as their attacking threat was absorbed into the giant yellow sponge in front of them.

According to Opta Stats, Spain attempted 917 passes and enjoyed 85% possession -- the highest numbers seen at a European Championship since 1980.

But just as in their World Cup exit against Russia in 2018, when they recorded very similar figures, the Spanish displayed a worrying lack of cutting edge that will hearten the players of Poland and Slovakia who face Spain next in the group.

The second half, in particular, became all too comfortable for a stoic and disciplined Swedish who, despite spending the whole match camped in their own half, still managed to create two of the game's best chances.

Luis Enrique sprung a surprise when he gave a start to Barcelona's teenage midfielder Pedri in his 4-3-3 formation.

Despite showing classy touches, Pedri struggled to impose himself although it was a tough game in which to judge him.

Criticism will be levelled at Spain's forward trio of Ferran Torres, Dani Olmo and Alvaro Morata, however, none of whom finished the game.

BEST OPPORTUNITY

Olmo looked lively enough and had one header superbly saved by Sweden keeper Robin Olsen, while Morata wasted his side's best opportunity in the first half when he curled wide when he should have scored.

Luis Enrique persevered until the 66th minute when Morata, who was booed by fans in a recent friendly and did little to win over his critics, was replaced by midfielder Pablo Sarabria -- a switch that left Spain with no striker on the pitch.

Sarabria did offer width and when Luis Enrique sent on Villarreal's Gerard Moreno for Olmo in the 74th minute he almost came up trumps with Moreno forcing a great late save from Olsen.

It all felt a little too late though and Enrique might well wonder whether introducing the pace and power of Adama Traore might not have done more to unhinge the Swedish door.

Spain right back Marcos Llorente summed up the frustration in colourful fashion.

"What a weird feeling," he said. "We created so many chances and simply weren't effective with them.

"In fact we created a rainbow of different chances and there are just some days when the ball refuses to go in."

The stalemate means Spain have won only one of their last six opening games in tournaments -- a 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic at Euro 2016 when they lost to Italy in the last 16.

Luis Enrique is unlikely to suffer any knee jerk reaction, after all a draw in the opening game is not a calamity.

But he may well be tempted to shake up the forwards on Saturday against Poland with Moreno, who scored 32 goals this season, in the frame to replace Morata.

Thiago, who replaced Rodri in midfield after 66 minutes, could also offer a more three-dimensional range of passing if Spain again find themselves facing a massed defence.

For Sweden, however limited their game plan appeared the ends clearly justified the means.

"We don't care too much about how many passes they have as long as they don't have too much time in the centre," defensive rock Victor Lindelof said. "The longer the game went on the more frustrated they became."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)

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