SEVILLE: Spain’s Euro 2020 campaign is not progressing as planned. A 1-1 draw in Seville with Poland, following their 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.
No such comfort for Luis Enrique’s men. 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.
Poland’s Mateusz Klich was twice over the bar at one end and Spain’s Pau Torres at the other before the 2008 and 2012 European champions took the lead. Gerard Moreno cut in from the right and his angled pass into the goal area was touched home by Alvaro Morata.
The striker, the subject of heavy criticism from media and fans, ran to celebrate with delighted coach Luis Enrique who had kept faith with him.
Poland, staring elimination in the face, had no option but to attack. Karol Swiderski volleyed over the bar when he might have headed instead and Tymoteusz Puchacz thumped a 25-metre drive against a post. Lewandowski, following up, shot the loose ball straight into keeper Unai Simon’s midriff.
The world’s No player made amends nine minutes into the second half. Kamil Jozwiak escaped on the right and crossed to the edge of the goal area where Lewandowski rose above the Spanish defence to head the equaliser down past Simon’s right hand.
Spain hurried back down the pitch and were awarded a contentious penalty for a foul on Gerard Moreno by Jakub Moder. Moreno hit his low penalty against a post and Morata lifted the rebound over the crossbar.
This was only brief respite for Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and his fellow defenders. Szczesny tipped an angled Morata shot for a corner but was then fortunate when Ferran Torres headed wide from in front of goal. Next he grabbed a sharp shot on the turn from Rodri and Poland were home and dry with a first point.
Robert Lewandowski, Poland captain: “Tonight we played a good game. Of course we made some mistakes, both in defence and in attack, but it looked much better than against Slovakia. Why? I think that in the first game we wanted to play pure football and create a lot. We focused on that and other parts did not work. We knew that against Spain we would be more focused on defence, but we did it quite well. It simply worked out.”
Kamil Glik, Poland defender: Was it one of the biggest challenges of my career? I’d say so. The task was difficult, but we didn’t lose hope. Even if some people in Poland did, we did not. This tournament has just started for us. There’s been a delay, but it’s finally started.”
Luis Enrique, Spain coach: “I have the greatest urge to watch and analyse the match. It hasn’t left us with the best feeling – perhaps we were the dominant team, but it wasn’t enough to force the victory. I liked how Poland played. They created clear chances. We probably tried too hard and overdid things instead of creating clear-cut opportunities. Missing the penalty was a pity because it was at an absolutely crucial moment.”
Álvaro Morata, Spain striker: “It doesn’t matter that I scored. I’m only interested in winning. But I had to thank Luis Enrique for the confidence he’s shown in me. Life’s like this – full of difficult moments. Now we just have to grit our teeth, keep going and get out of this group.”
Spain: Unai Simón – Marcos Llorente, Laporte, Pau Torres, Jordi Alba – Koke (Sarabia 68), Rodri, Pedri – Gerard Moreno (Fabián Ruiz 68), Morata (Oyarzabal 87), Olmo (Ferran Torres 61).
Poland: Szczęsny – Bereszyński, Glik, Bednarek (Dawidowicz 85) – Jóźwiak, Moder (Linetty 85), Klich (Kozłowski 55), Puchacz; Świderski (Frankowski 68), Zieliński – Lewandowski.
Referee: Orsato (Ita).
** Kacper Kozlowski of Poland became the youngest player at a Euro when he appeared as a second-half substitute at 17 years 246 days.