Spain’s began their Euro 2020 assault with a frustrating 0-0 draw with their toothlessness in the final third costing them dear against Sweden in Seville.
The 2008 and 2012 winners were dominant in possession but they lacked the cutting edge that their predecessors had in abundance. There were too many passes backwards or passes made just for the sake of passing, with a lack of drives forward to break through a Swedish defence that was set up behind the ball from the off.
When they did break through, chances were wasted or, on occasion, they were thwarted by some excellent goalkeeping by Robin Olsen. Álvaro Morata missed the best chance of the game after a mix-up at the back had allowed the striker through on goal, but he spectacularly missed the target from inside the box.
Luis Enrique was not urgent enough to make changes early when his side were struggling to find a breakthrough as his players were wasting possession and not driving at Sweden’s defence. The game was crying out for some ball-carrying drive and pace and one might have expected Adama Traoré to make an appearance, yet he was not called upon.
Spain have entertained fans across the world in recent years with their ability to pick apart teams but this next generation is lacking the spark with which the likes of Cesc Fàbregas and Andrés Iniesta dazzled the international stage. Their quality in front of goal is clearly lacking and without a plan to break down defences sat behind the ball, everyone involved at the tournament will know how to frustrate and get the better of them.
La Roja showed the flair they have been renowned for over the years with some neat passages of play in the opening stages, before they started to ask questions of Sweden’s defence. Olsen was called into action to deny a close-range header from Dani Olmo after an excellent cross by Koke.
Sweden were constantly pegged back by Spain in the first half, forcing their two forwards to drop back. Koke was gifted an opportunity but his effort flew wide of the far post from the left. Luis Enrique's side were constantly cutting through Sweden’s defence but were lacking in their final passes and finishes. A perfect opportunity after a defensive mishap was handed to Morata but he somehow fired his effort wide from inside the box with just the goalkeeper to beat.
To everyone’s surprise, Sweden had an excellent chance through Alexander Isak, whose shot from the right side of the penalty box cannoned off the covering Marcos Llorente onto the post before being collected by Unai Simón.
Olsen was on hand again to deny another effort from Olmo as Spain were left frustrated heading into the break. Morata missed another good chance just after the break as he dragged an effort wide of the left post. Sweden had a chance to edge themselves in front but Marcus Berg scuffed a great opportunity to give his side the lead at the far post.
Spain had a number of chances as the game wore on but were denied by blocks or the increasingly-confident Olsen. The former champions seemed too reserved to take a gamble in creating a chance with moments of brilliance and the players seemed too comfortable just passing the ball around in a style reminiscent of the Arsenal side of Arsene Wenger's later years in charge. It is one thing to dominate the ball but it means nothing when there is not a goal to show for it.
They will need to be more adventurous and clinical in front of goal when they face Poland in matchday two, and there must be far greater urgency than this if they are to have a hope of a third European title in 13 years come 11 July.