Spain is a country that is rich in culture and has produced some of the most famous and skilled people in various fields. An example of these people would be the infamous artist Salvador Dalí. The Spanish artist was world-renowned for his work in the category of art that is surrealism and truly represented his country in a way that nobody had done before, but how does this link to today’s football result in Seville?
Well I made the link because serious doubts of Spain’s future and competitiveness in this summer’s Euros arose over the prior couple of weeks with Spain only managing two draws and one goal against teams of a considerably lower quality than theirs. However, Spanish fans were able to exit La Cartuja today having witnessed a performance that had an aura of surrealism hovering over it.
Following Spain’s opening performances against both Poland and Sweden, everyone that had tuned into the games, even non-Spanish supporters, could agree that the chances of the Spanish lighting up the final third and eventually the remainder of the tournament looked harrowingly dire, but Luis Enrique’s men put in a performance on Wednesday that would have forced the rest of Europe to stand up and at last take notice.
Euro 2020 Match Report: Spain 5-0 Slovakia
Well to start with, many were surprised by the starting line-up as Luis Enrique decided to field Simón, Azpilicueta, Eric Garcia, Aymeric Laporte, Jordi Alba, Koke, Busquets, Pedri, Sarabia, Morata and Gerard Moreno, with Marcos Llorente, Dani Olmo, Pau Torres and Rodri all dropping out.
Changes for Spain.
Here's how they line up against Slovakia in their decisive final group game:
Simon – Alba, Laporte, E. Garcia, Azpilicueta – Pedri, Busquets, Koke – G. Moreno, Morata, Sarabia https://t.co/UVg2Hpt4ML
— LaLiga Expert (@LigaExpert) June 23, 2021
Within moments, Sweden were a goal ahead of Poland which was only the start to a night full of Euros drama. Back in sunny Andalusia however, Spain were already playing with a higher tempo in comparison to their previous games. Gerard Moreno started on the left and the Villarreal talisman was quick to become a playmaker, taking on players and swinging balls into the box. Surprise inclusion Pablo Sarabia was also getting involved, making the Spanish wings very dangerous for the first time this tournament.
In the 11th minute, Koke was thumped down in the box which VAR deemed to be a penalty, meaning that Álvaro Morata could get his opportunity from 12 yards, but unfortunately the ball was met by the strong hands of Newcastle’s Dubravka. Spain now have missed their last 5 spot-kicks, but this didn’t hinder Spain’s attacking pressure as they continued to probe.
Moreno continued to show why he is perhaps now Luis Enrique’s most productive outlet as he was able to skip beyond players and on many occasions, win free kicks. The breakthrough came on the half-hour mark, as Sarabia thrashed a powerful shot towards the Slovakian goal and the it was launched into the air by the frame, but in true hero to zero fashion, Dubravka in an attempt to send the ball over his crossbar, out of danger, ended up just parrying the flying ball into his own net, putting the opposition ahead.
7 – Martin Dubravka has scored the seventh own goal of EURO 2020; this is as many own goals as were scored at the 2000 (1), 2004 (2), 2008 (0), 2012 (1) and 2016 (3) editions of the tournament combined. Calamity. #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/KQTSggN2SP
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 23, 2021
I said that the wide-play was imperative to Spain’s victory tonight and this was also shown by the interchanging of wingers and full-backs. Moreno would sometimes come deep and win the ball back, which opened up acres of space on the left for Alba to run into. Alba being the speed-demon that he is, would create chances out of this with ease. On the other side, the returning Azpilicueta continuously got into promising positions to put some fine balls into the box, really showing his manager what happens when you play a natural right-back, at right-back.
Moreno continued to be the thorn in Slovakia’s side both before and after he switched sides with Sarabia, winning many fouls and holding-up possession well. Moreno’s efforts would lead to a goal, set-up by himself as Pedri scooped a ball over the Slovakian back-line into the path of the Europa League winner. He spun the onrushing keeper and Skriniar too, so he could send a looping ball onto the head of Laporte, who headed past Dubravka for his first international goal, within his first 4 games for La Roja.
No changes were made at the break and rightfully so as Spain were able to get their third after 11 minutes of the second half; Pedri again lofted the ball over to the creator, Alba, who fired a cross into Sarabia, who slotted into the bottom right first-time. Morata made another incisive run, creating the space for the ball to find the PSG man.
If you watched the game without knowing anything about Pedri, you wouldn’t have guessed that he is only 18 years old, as he toyed with the Slovakian midfielders, breezing away from them as if he was his partner-in-crime, Busquets.
Sweden and Poland had both scored between Spain’s third and the substitution of Morata, that saw him receive a standing ovation from his home-crowd. Claps and cheers drowned out any other form of noise as the Juventus striker exited the field for Ferran Torres, which was heart-warming to say the least.
Despite this, he probably wished the substitution was delayed for about a minute as directly following the change, Sarabia pulled the ball back to newly-introduced Ferran Torres, who was able to pull off an incisive flick into the back of the net. 4-0 and there was still one more surprise waiting for Spanish fans.
Thiago and Pau Torres replaced Eric Garcia and Sergio Busquets and again one of the subs made an instant impact. Pau Torres, with his first touch, headed the ball towards goal, but it pinballed between Dubravka and Kunka into the back of the net. Although UEFA didn’t credit the goal to the Villarreal centre-back, it was 5-0 and Spain were in dreamland.
Oyarzabal and Adama Traore replaced Azpi and Gerard Moreno in the 77th minute, meaning that Adama was deployed at right-back. Thiago and Adama added new dynamics to the field, Thiago with the flair and ability to slice defences with his passes like a hot knife through butter and Adama with the strength, speed, and willingness to drive at defenders.
However, the game had long since been won by that point, and following four minutes of added time, that must have felt like an eternity for Slovakia, the full-time whistle was blown to mark the end of a breathtaking Spain victory.
The only bad news for La Roja, was Sweden scoring a winning goal against Poland in the games’s dying embers, meaning that they rather than Spain would top the group with 7 points.
Due to tonight’s roller-coaster of emotions and action, Spain, for the first time this campaign, will travel away from Seville and it will be to face World Cup runners-up Croatia in Copenhagen. This last 16 tie is looking very competitive as both teams have grown into the tournament after struggling to find their feet at the beginning, but after tonight’s showing, there is no real reason to panic.
However, there is still a lot of work to be done for Spain and there is definitely no reason to expect the expected in this tournament.