SEVILLE, Spain, June 23 – Spain finally took off at Euro 2020 after a 5-0 pounding Slovakia on Wednesday sent them as Group E finalists, with Croatia their opponents in the round of 16.
Luis Enrique described his side as a bottle of cava on the verge of being busted and they certainly exploded in Sevilla, where a scoring frenzy was cathartic and could prove to be yet transformative for their chances in the knockout stages.
Spain were even on the verge of winning their group until Viktor Claesson scored in the 94th minute against Poland to secure the top spot for Sweden. Slovakia finished third and were eliminated.
“It’s obviously a relief, not only for me, but what it means when you insist on the same ideas and can get results,” said Luis Enrique. “The result comes at the best time and prepares us for what will follow. ”
After two tension-filled draws against Sweden and Poland, Spain had to scramble to qualify, Luis Enrique admitting he would have taken any position in the squad as long as it meant passing.
But Spain went wild at La Cartuja, their initial anxiety reinforced by Alvaro Morata’s missed penalty, then quickly eased by two terrible mistakes from Slovak goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
The first was an own goal that will surely go down as one of the weirdest moments of the tournament before another Dubravka mistake saw Aymeric Laporte come into play.
With the chains removed, Spain went wild in the second half as Pablo Sarabia, Ferran Torres and another home side goal of Juraj Kucka confirmed an emphatic victory, although Croatia and Luka Modric will provide a test much. more severe next week.
Luis Enrique made four changes, with Sarabia being the one who made the biggest impression after entering the top three.
Sergio Busquets, who missed the first two games after testing positive for Covid, made his first appearance of the tournament.
“There are times when you have a bit of a blockage and sometimes you just stir the hornet’s nest,” Luis Enrique said. “We have 24 desperate players to play.”
Spain monopolized the ball in the first half but for 30 minutes it was a familiar story of missed chances and growing frustration.
Spain received a penalty as Jakub Hromada cleared but instead hit Koke’s leg.
Morata had postponed the shot on goal to Gerard Moreno against Poland and this time took matters into his own hands, only to whip the ball to a comfortable height for Dubravka to return to his right. This is the fifth consecutive penalty that Spain has missed.
– Dubravka’s nightmare –
They may have collapsed but rather persevered, although both Sarabia and Pedri kicked in the air before Dubravka finally stepped in to give them a hand.
Lubomir Satka’s scuffed clearance landed directly on Sarabia, whose diving shot struck the top of the crossbar and flew upward. Dubravka was below and as he tried to knock the ball over his own crossbar he only managed to smack it into his own net.
Spain breathed a sigh of relief and just before half-time they doubled down. Dubravka was at fault again, this time coming out only to see Moreno pull the ball away from him in the box and cross him again. Laporte brilliantly managed to curl his head in the top corner.
Slovakia threw Michal Duris and Stanislav Lobotka at half-time but Spain were released and in 10 minutes it was three. This time it wasn’t a mistake but a skillful move that made it, Jordi Alba falling back on Sarabia, who veered around the corner.
Morata came out when he might have wanted to stay and his replacement scored almost on his first touch, Torres applying a superb blow to Sarabia’s cross at the near post.
It got worse for Slovakia, with a scuffle in the box resulting in Kucka hacking Pau Torres’ header into his own net for a fifth. Spain were briefly in the lead, only for Sweden to snatch a winner.