GLASGOW: Spain opened their Euro 2020 campaign with a goalless draw against Sweden in Seville on Monday after their preparations were badly affected by Covid-19, while Slovakia edged out 10-man Poland 2-1 in St Petersburg.
Slovakia lead the early Group ‘E’ table ahead of Spain and Sweden, after the Scandinavians held on for a point at La Cartuja, with Alvaro Morata wasting the hosts’ best opportunity.
“There are no doubts about a striker like Morata,” Aymeric Laporte said of his team-mate. “We know what he can do, it didn’t go in for him today it’s true, but in the next game he can score three and shut everyone’s mouth.”
Jordi Alba captained Spain in the absence of Sergio Busquets, who is still self-isolating at home after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Defender Diego Llorente was only allowed to rejoin the group on Saturday after giving a fourth consecutive negative test and was an unused substitute against the Swedes.
The squad was forced to train individually and their last friendly against Lithuania was passed over to the under-21s.
But Spain, bidding for a record fourth European Championship title, started strongly against Sweden, dominating possession.
Morata fired the clearest chance of the first half wide though, while Alexander Isak saw an effort deflected onto his own post at the other end by Marcos Llorente.
Juventus striker Morata dragged another effort off target early in the second half, while Sweden striker Marcus Berg miskicked wide of an open goal.
Spain laid siege to the visitors’ net late on, but a series of blocks and an excellent save by Robin Olsen to deny Gerard Moreno preserved Sweden’s point.
Poland will rue Grzegorz Krychowiak’s 62nd-minute second yellow card in Russia as the midfielder became the first player to be sent off in this year’s tournament.
Slovakia had taken an 18th-minute lead when Robert Mak’s shot hit the post and bounced in off Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny before Karol Linetty levelled shortly after the break.
The game was settled with 21 minutes to play, though, as Inter Milan defender Milan Skriniar drilled in to give Slovakia a winning start.
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski was a peripheral figure and has still only scored two goals in 12 appearances at major finals.
The action on the pitch continues with Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen still in hospital following Saturday’s shocking collapse.
The 29-year-old’s condition said he was feeling “fine — under the circumstances” in an Instagram post from hospital on Tuesday, 72 hours after his cardiac arrest playing for his country against Finland in Copenhagen.
“Big thanks for your sweet and amazing greetings and messages from all around the world. It means a lot to me and my family,” Eriksen said in a post on the national team’s Instagram profile. “I’m fine — under the circumstances.”
The post was accompanied by a picture of him lying in a hospital bed, smiling and giving a ‘thumbs up’.
“But I feel okay. Now, I will cheer on the boys on the Denmark team in the next matches, Play for all of Denmark,” he added.
Eriksen collapsed just before halftime in the match, which Finland won 1-0 after it restarted, and was taken to hospital after receiving CPR on the pitch.
Finland coach Markku Kanerva on Tuesday expressed concerned his players might still be traumatized by Eriksen’s collapse when they play Russia in their Group ‘B’ second game on Wednesday in which they will qualify for the last 16 with a victory.
“It is not an easy task all of a sudden to concentrate only on football because there were bigger things than football in play,” Kanerva said. “It is hard to estimate how the event with Eriksen affects different people. Of course we all have it in our minds.”
Italy can also seal their progress to the knockout stages from Group ‘A’ on Wednesday with a game to spare when they face Switzerland in Rome.
There is excitement around the Italy team after their comprehensive 3-0 win over Turkey on Friday night to get Roberto Mancini’s side up and running in the tournament.
Victory over Switzerland would take Italy into the last-16, regardless of other results in the group. Switzerland are coming off a 1-1 draw in their opener with Wales, who face Turkey in the group’s other game on Wednesday.
Published in Dawn, EOS, June 16th, 2021