Euro 2020: Unsettled Spain look for golden touch
After a historic Sunday which saw England’s Raheem Sterling score his first goal in an international tournament and a winning return for the Netherlands versus Ukraine, we turn our heads towards three-time European champions Spain taking on Sweden, as well as Scotland, who return to the international fold after 23 years. Poland, who are struggling with injuries, will also battle it out with Slovakia in a Group E match.
Let’s delve deeper into tonight’s action:
Scotland vs Czech Republic (6:30 pm, IST)
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Scotland, who last played international football in the 1998 World Cup, will certainly enjoy home advantage against Czech Republic. The Scots will look to start on a winning note, keeping in mind their next match versus heavyweights England. They last played in the European Championship in 1996. Scotland manager Steve Clark will most likely suffer from a selection dilemma after a number of players performed exceedingly well in the Netherlands and Luxembourg warm-ups. “As you would expect, it's a difficult selection process - 26 players all doing their best in training, a really high level of training,” Clarke was quoted as saying to dailyrecord.co.uk.
Czech manager Jaroslav Silhavy is already feeling the pinch of playing in front of a Scottish home crowd. “Of course it gives them the advantage. The home crowd is hungry for football, they haven’t got to the stadium for a long time. It’s going to be exciting for them and it’s going to motivate the Scottish team. The atmosphere is great for all of the players on the pitch but it will be an advantage for them,” Silhavy was quoted as saying by centralfifetimes.com.
Players to watch out for:
Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes kept Scotland upbeat against Luxembourg in their last outing. So coach Clarke will expect the duo to fire on all cylinders. And Manchester United central midfielder Scott McTominay is almost certain to take the field.
The Czech attack will be expected to revolve around Bayer Leverkusen main man Patrick Schick, who had an impressive outing versus Albania in the last warm-up game. The Czechs are playing their seventh consecutive European Championship, and will most certainly expect West Ham duo Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek to hold fort.
Teachers of Scotland: today, let's put football on the curriculum 🏴— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) June 14, 2021
At 2pm, get the game on the big screens, wheel out the TVs and get the next generation inspired 🙌 pic.twitter.com/0KIT8ePtNM
Poland vs Slovakia (9:30 pm, IST)
Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg
Poland will go into their opening Euro 2020 clash with an air of self-doubt, after having drawn the previous two matches against Russia and Iceland. Their injury concerns are also giving them sleepless nights. Forward Arkadiusz Milik bowed out of the tournament following a knee injury, and Krzysztof Piatek limped out due to a broken ankle. Coach Paulo Sousa has reasons to worry as Slovakia are coming on the back of decent performances, and a better head-to-head record. Out of the eight matches between the two, Slovakia have emerged victorious in four, while Poland have won only three. One match had ended in a draw.
“We have to find gaps in Slovakia, a team that is well organised and defends well with a mid-to-low block. They're really strong in transition, very direct, they don't spend much energy in the build-up and are also really strong from set pieces, ” Sousa was quoted as saying by tsn.ca.
Slovakia head coach Stefan Tarkovic knows Poland can spring a surprise even if they're on the backfoot. “We worked hard to get here and are looking forward to getting under way. It's a big challenge for us. Poland are ahead of us in the FIFA rankings, and we are coming into the tournament as outsiders, but I think the squads are evenly matched,” he told tsn.ca.
Players to watch out:
Sousa is expected to rely on Robert Lewandowski, who had a pivotal role to play in Poland reaching the quarterfinals in the 2016 edition. For Slovakia, Marek Hamsik should come up with the goods with all his experience and skill.
Spain vs Sweden (12:30 am IST, Tuesday)
Estadio La Cartuja, Sevilla
Three-time European champions Spain will look to brush aside their recent setbacks and approach the Sweden game with an intent to win. Recently, their captain Sergio Busquets and defender Diego Llorente tested positive for coronavirus, and coach Luis Enrique was forced to field the under-21 side against Lithuania on June 8, which La Roja won 4-0.
The last seven years haven't been great for Spain at the international level. They suffered a group-stage exit in the 2014 World Cup and couldn't make it past the round of 16 in Euro 2016. Enrique's squad was vaccinated by the Spanish army on Friday, and there were doubts about its side-effects. “We have had to change a little, we don't have our captain here, Busquets, and we would have loved to have him, but we adapt. It's been a tough week, without doubt, but no complaints, no excuses. We have a great squad and we are excited for the first game tomorrow," Enrique told the media on Sunday.
With three successive group stage eliminations, Sweden will look forward to improving their record. The Swedes made it to the Euro quarter-finals back in 2004, and since then there's only been bad news. Coach Janne Anderrson knows the challenges involved in playing against La Roja. But he is optimistic. “We have played well in friendlies and we trained very well. We are very well prepared to do well. We are trying to prepare well in the hours leading up to the game," he told Marca.
Players to watch out for:
With Busquets out with Covid-19, Enrique is likely to bank on Alvaro Morata and Thiago Alacantra to get things going. Although Morata hasn’t enjoyed a great season, he will look forward to getting his mojo back if fielded.
With nine goals and seven assists in the Bundesliga season, the versatile RB Leipzig midfielder Emil Forsberg will be Anderrson's go-to man. Juventus winger Dejan Kulusevski can also work wonders on his day for the Swedes.