Spain play Croatia in the last 16 on Monday; In the other match, Viktor Claesson sends Sweden top, while Poland are eliminated despite Robert Lewandowski’s brace.
Spain unleashed their attacking prowess, thrashing Slovakia 5-0 to seal their place in the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Wednesday. However, La Roja had to be content with a second-place finish after an injury-time goal by Viktor Claesson in the other match sent Sweden top of Group E. Their 3-2 victory condemned Poland to elimination from the competition despite Robert Lewandowski’s second-half brace. It was the Spanish side’s first victory in this European Championship. On the back of two disappointing draws in their opening two group matches, the five-star performance will be a welcome boost for the Spanish fans. Spain will next play Croatia in the last 16 on Monday.
Luis Enrique’s side needed this thumping victory to make a statement to their fellow rivals, who are still left in this competition. Spain’s dominance was so much that they could even miss an early Alvaro Morata penalty and still score five times to end their group phase on a high. Buoyed by the return of ever-reliable Sergio Busquets in the middle, Spain started the match sharply. It was not only about maintaining the possession as the Spaniards were also purposeful with the ball in the attacking third.
When Jakub Hromada caught Koke with an attempted clearance, their strong start appeared to be rewarded. Spain were awarded a penalty following a VAR review. However, Martin Dubravka stopped Morata’s poor spot-kick to add to the striker’s misery in this competition. Shortly after, the Newcastle United goalkeeper went from hero to zero as he punched the rebound of a Pablo Sarabia’s shot into his own net on the half-hour.
The goalkeeper was again at fault for Spain’s second. He left Laporte an unguarded net after racing to the edge of his six-yard box but failed to prevent Gerard Moreno from delivering a cross to the Manchester City defender, which he calmly slotted into the net to double their lead.
Knowing that a defeat would do no good for Slovakia, their manager Stefan Tarkovic sent on two substitutes at the break to change the match in his favour. However, their all-out approach only played into Spain’s hands as Enrique’s boys were able to find more room behind Slovakia’s defence.
The bright start to the half did not last long for Slovakia as they conceded a third. Sarabia swept home Jordi Alba’s low ball 11 minutes into the second half to more or less seal the three points for the former champions. This was more reflective of the dazzling play that propelled Spain to European titles in 2008 and 2012. La Roja were in cruise control and they were hungry for more.
Ferran Torres then scored through a delightful backheel flick with his first touch as Sarabia turned provider this time. Juraj Kucka still had time to knock the ball into his own net to round off a miserable night for Slovakia. It could very well be the perfect result Spain need ahead of the knockout stages.
In the other match, Sweden secured top spot in Group E with a 3-2 victory over Poland in an eventful game. Poland needed a win to stay in the competition, but their hopes of securing the three points suffered a major blow when Emil Forsberg scored an early goal.
With the score reading 0-1 at half-time, Poland started attacking more in the second period, however, it was Sweden who doubled their lead – again through Forsberg, just before the hour mark. Undeterred by the disappointment, Poland mounted an impressive comeback.
Their star striker Lewandowski scored two quick-fire goals to give them a chance of producing a remarkable turnaround. However, Sweden’s substitute Viktor Claesson scored deep into stoppage time to break the hearts of the Polish fans.