Stumbling Spain still miss that Euro winning touch

Keir Radnedge – AIPS Football Delegate

SEVILLE, June 19, 2021 – Spain are growing jittery. The three-times European champions’ Euro 2020 campaign is not progressing as expected. A 1-1 draw in Seville with Poland, following a goalless stalemate with Sweden, means they envy other members of the international elite who are already sure of a place in the round of 16 with a game to spare.

Italy, Belgium and Netherlands are certain of places in the round of 16 with Wales, Ukraine, Czech Republic and England likely to join them. All will be decided over the next four concluding matchdays.

Some confusion may also attend the outcomes even then. If teams are level on points the initial deciding factor will not be overall goal difference but the result between the particular teams concerned.

This is not an issue with which Spain, champions in 1964, 2008 and 2012, had expected to contend – until now.

In Seville they took an early lead, conceded a predictable equaliser to the ever-threatening Robert Lewandowski and then missed a penalty. If they fail to beat Slovakia, again in Seville, they will depend upon the lottery of third places.

The days when Spain dictated possession all the game are long gone. That much was clear from the early stages of a first half which brought a variety of opportunities at both ends before Gerard Moreno’s cross-shot was touched home by Alvaro Morata.

Poland, staring elimination in the face, had no option but to attack. Tymoteusz Puchacz thumped a 25-metre drive against a post and Lewandowski, following up, shot the loose ball straight at keeper Unai Simon’s midriff. However the world’s No player made amends with a towering, equalising header nine minutes into the second half.

Spain responded in vain, Gerard Moreno even missing a penalty.

Elsewhere Group F lived up to its the ‘Group of Death’ label when Hungary held World Cup-holders France in Budapest and European champions Portugal lost 4-2 to Germany in Munich.

France were far from their best in the 30-degree heat and in front of a capacity 60,000 crowd in the Hungarian capital. They took immediate command but were punished by a Hungarian goal two minutes into first-half stoppage time from left wingback Attila Fiola.

French coach Didier Deschamps sent on winger Ousmane Dembele to spark the French effort to life. Dembele himself shot against a post then goalkeeper Hugo Lloris lofted a long clearance downfield and Mbappe set up an equaliser for Antoine Griezmann.

Munich saw the most outstanding match of the finals thus far with Germany worthy winners against Portugal despite conceding an early opening goal to the inevitable Cristiano Ronaldo.

Own goals from Ruben Dias and Raphael Guerreiro lifted Germany back on terms then into the lead before the halftime. A further 15 minutes and they were 4-1 ahead with further strikes from Kai Havertz and Robin Gosens, the Atalanta wingback who has never played professionally in Germany.

Diogo Jota struck a second goal for the European champions but could not save them from a defeat which means all four Group F teams have everything to play for on the concluding day of the group stage next Wednesday.

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