Nearly a decade on from Spain’s third consecutive tournament victory in 2012, their squad has changed. They have gone through a dramatic rebuild. Only Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba remain from the side that won the 2012 European Championship in Poland & Ukraine. A new crop of Spanish players has the country dreaming once again even with their underdog status. Despite falling short in their last three major tournaments, Spain’s manager Luis Enrique in his second spell in charge has voiced his confidence that his country could win their fourth European Championship title. The national side was unbeaten in qualifying, winning 8 out of 10 games including a 6-0 humiliation of Germany in November in the UEFA Nations League.
Sweden exceeded many critics’ expectations by reaching the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup and they have built on that success under manager Janne Andersson. A new generation of young Swedish players has also emerged. They lost once in qualifying for this summer’s tournament finishing as runner-up in the same group as today’s opponents Spain. Sweden had recently recalled 40-year-old talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but he was not named in Andersson’s final 26-man squad. Instead, Markus Berg and Robin Quaison will likely compete for the attacking role alongside Alexander Isak, while Juventus midfielder Dejan Kulusevski is another player to watch out for in the tournament.
Spain dominated the first-half possession as La Roja completed 419 passes. It is the highest number of passes completed in an opening 45 minutes in European competition since 1980. However, it was not until the 15th-minute mark that Dani Olmo forced Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen into a smart save with a header from 7 yards out. Thereafter, Atletico Madrid skipper Koke on his 51st cap for Spain would go close twice but still, Spain couldn’t find the opener. Alvaro Morata in true Alvaro Morata fashion would then spurn a glorious chance after he received a pass from Jordi Alba to get a one-on-one chance. A mistake at the back allowed him the chance but his shot inched narrowly wide.
Despite registering 21% possession and completing 31 passes in the opening half it was Sweden who nearly took an unlikely lead as Alexander Isak broke free of the Spanish defense but was denied by the post via a last-ditch goal-line clearance from Marcos Llorente. Dani Olmo then drew yet another stunning save from Robin Olsen on the stroke of halftime.
Spain would not lose their control and greed for possession after a 15-minute break as they picked up exactly where they left off. Sweden knew they would get their chance despite not being able to get a hold of the ball and again they came close to taking the lead as Alexander Isak who was a constant thorn in the Spanish defense’s side wriggled away from 3 defenders and put it on a plate for his strike partner Marcus Berg. Berg failed to complete a routine tap-in from 3 yards out and he put his effort wide. Spain would mount late pressure with the hope of turning possession into goals. Robin Olsen had different plans though. He refused to concede as he kept out late efforts from Dani Olmo, Gerard Moreno, and Pablo Sarabia to ensure Sweden took a point from the game.