Spain will begin their UEFA Euro 2020 campaign when they play hosts to Sweden on Monday, in the heat of Estadio de la Cartuja in Seville.
The final game on Monday in UEFA Euro 2020 will see Spain kick-start their campaign, welcoming Sweden at Estadio de la Cartuja in Seville.
Heading into the tournament as one of the favourites, getting off to a positive start will be vital for a Spanish side who have never quite managed to reach their potential since their back-to-back triumph in Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012. In Euro 2016, La Roja were eliminated in the Round of 16 by Italy. They met the same fate in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, being knocked out by host nation Russia.
Spain have since performed rather well under the leadership of Luis Enrique. They aced the Euro 2020 qualifying stages, winning eight of their ten games while also reaching the UEFA Nations League semi-finals. A 6-0 triumph over Germany was one of the highlights of Enrique’s spell in charge of the Spanish national team so far, though other results have not been overwhelmingly impressive.
The match against Sweden will be the first game in charge of a major tournament for the former Barcelona manager. It will indeed be a difficult test, given how the Scandinavian outfit performed in the Euro Qualifiers, finishing second only to Spain in Group F.
Despite struggling in the UEFA Nations League, the spirits are high in the Swedish camp, especially after two back-to-back wins in the warm-up matches, in addition to attaining a 100% winning record in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers so far.
Incidentally, Spain and Sweden were drafted together in the same group, not only in the Euro 2020 qualifiers but also in the World Cup Qualifiers. In fact, if the Swedes get knocked out of the group stage in the Euro, their next international match will be against Spain, in the World Cup qualifiers.
The two sides, nevertheless, will be determined to kick-start their UEFA Euro 2020 campaigns on a positive note. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look ahead of their blockbuster encounter at Estadio de la Cartuja on Monday night.
Team News & Tactics
Following his appointment as head coach, Luis Enrique has retained the technicality one would normally associate with a Spanish team. However, he has added a bit of directness that makes the team much more deadly.
The former Barcelona tactician is expected to continue with his 4-1-4-1 setup, usually attempting to play out from the back. They need to be patient and secure in possession, which is why Rodri might end up playing a vital role.
The Manchester City midfielder can serve as the anchorman and the secure passing option for the two central defenders in Pau Torres and Aymeric Laporte. These two will primarily look to move the ball forward quicker, most likely stretching it out wide using the two full-backs in Cesar Azpilicueta and Jordi Alba.
Full-backs are set to play a vital role when it comes to making overlapping runs forward, especially when the two wingers in Marcos Llorente and Ferran Torres move in-field. It will be crucial for Spain’s productivity, as they do indeed lack the services of a reliable goalscorer.
However, Gerard Moreno enjoyed an excellent season at Villarreal and could get the nod ahead of Alvaro Morata as the leader of the Spanish attack. He is set to be partnered by Torres, who is likely to shift into a central role, while Llorente should play in a more versatile wing-back role, moving into defence in case of defensive energy.
As for the midfield department, Enrique has a lot of quality options who can accompany Rodri. Koke and Thiago are the front-runners, but Barcelona youngster Pedri could be given a surprise start in case either of these two experienced players struggles to create chances in the middle of the park.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Simon; Azpilicueta, Pau Torres, Laporte, Alba; Rodri; Llorente, Koke, Thiago, Ferran Torres; Moreno
Sweden coach Janne Andersson typically favours a classic 4-4-2 defensive shape, with tall and strong defenders that can operate narrowly and minimise spaces for the opposition.
Given Spain’s lack of a tall, intimidating target man, Andersson might opt to force Spain into wider areas of the pitch where they may have no option but to play crosses into the box. Such a method plays right in favour of the central defensive duo of Pontus Jansson and Victor Lindelof.
Mikael Lustig and Ludwig Augustinsson should complete the back four for Sweden, with Robin Olsen starting in goal. Augustinsson will have the freedom to march forward, especially in the absence of Dejan Kulusevski, who has been ruled out after being diagnosed with COVID-19 last week.
One of Sweden’s weaknesses is the lack of quality in midfield. The team does not have a proper leader who can orient the possession, so the onus will be on Albin Ekdal and captain Sebastian Larsson to form the double-pivot once again.
As for the creative department, the burden will be on Emil Forsberg to provide the creative essence in the final third, especially with Kulusevski ruled out. Viktor Claesson is the likely option on the opposite flank, as Andersson sticks to a 4-4-2 setup despite the absence of one of his key players.
Forsberg and Claesson will be hoping to provide the attacking support for the two central strikers in Alexander Isak and Robin Quaison. Isak is the team’s main goalscorer, having enjoyed another terrific season in Laliga, while Quaison, Mainz’s all-time top goalscorer, will operate in a more versatile role, hoping to link up with the wide players and unleash Isak in behind the backline.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Olsen; Lustig, Lindelof, Jansson, Augustinsson; Claesson, Larsson, Ekdal, Forsberg; Quaison, Isak
- Spain are unbeaten at home since October 2018, when they lost to England at the Benito Villamarin Stadium in Seville.
- La Roja also dominate this particular fixture, securing six wins in 14 matches against Sweden. Their latest triumph came in October 2019, in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
- Sweden and Sapin have been drafted in the same group, in the Euro 2020 qualifiers and 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Players in Focus
Ferran Torres (Spain)
Despite playing a bit-part role in Manchester City’s largely successful 2020/21 campaign, Ferran Torres has become a real attacking threat for Spain. He has netted as many as six goals in just 11 caps for his nation, which is just one less than he managed in the entire Premier League campaign last term.
In a team that lacks a reliable goalscorer, Torres’ additional attacking thrust from the wider positions serve as a massive boost for Enrique’s men. So much so, the youngster could even become one of Spain’s most important players in this European Championship campaign, making the one player worth keeping an eye on, as far as the hosts are concerned.
Emil Forsberg (Sweden)
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dejan Kulusevski missing out, Sweden are in peril at the moment. In a way, it makes Emil Forsberg more important than ever, as the RB Leipzig playmaker is currently their only real creative spark available in the final third.
Forsberg did not have the best of seasons in the Bundesliga this past campaign, falling behind Dani Olmo and Christopher Nkunku in the pecking order. However, he is often the difference-maker for his country, having notched up 59 appearances so far.
From a tactical perspective, the 29-year-old will play a key role in moving infield to offer additional support for Isak. During his time under Julian Nagelsmann, Forsberg has earned a reputation of being a slimy false nine, so it won’t be surprising to see him score for Sweden on Monday.
Spain 1-0 Sweden
Spain have one of the strongest units in the tournament, but they are not a perfect team. Despite the home support, the hosts might struggle to find the back of the net, especially if Sweden succeeds in pushing them out wide and denying them the opportunity to use direct vertical passes in transition.
That said, Sweden are not the most complete team in either. They are missing their key attacking weapon, while their poor midfield might allow Spain to dominate possession. Either way, this promises to be a low-scoring affair, with Spain slight favourites to clinch a narrow victory.