Spain has never won in Sweden and the legend of the inviolable Nordic country will continue for a while longer. The sixth visit ended without victory. Not even with the fifth draw, the most common consolation result of The Red, but with the second defeat. Serious defeat this time. Spain was left the lead in Solna, overthrown by the Nordic eleven, their worst and most direct rival in the group, which leads them by two points and with a less disputed match.
It was nothing like last night’s duel with which they starred in Seville on June 14. That soporific 0-0 turned into a dizzying round trip, with two goals in the first five minutes and successive attacks and counterattacks in the final stretch after 2-1. Spain attacked badly and Sweden finished fatally.
Sweden equaled after the kickoff immediately after the goal of the debutant Soler.
Although the qualifying phase for the World Cup was resumed, the game looked like a new stage, between the end of the Eurocopa project in July, another international season opened and Luis Enrique had incorporated seven different players, none from Madrid, by the way, that did not change. Carlos Soler, one of the debutants, made his debut as a starter. It was not in the Olympic team in Tokyo, and it was one of the surprises of the line-up that the coach is so pleased to give. The interior of Valencia occupied the position of Pedri, although he was placed on the right, where he would be better understood with Ferran Torres, his former partner in Mestalla.
And there on the right Jordi Alba found him in a center that Soler finished off with a punt. The dream debut lasted only a few seconds, maybe a long minute. The next ball the midfielder touched, just off the center of Sweden, was a poor back pass, poorly controlled by Busquets, which Isak stole to beat Simón.
The frenzied start lasted much longer than the very brief give-and-take scorer phase. The pace was also different from Seville, and not just because the temperature was much cooler. Nothing of the tired Spanish tuya-mía of then forced, also, by the extreme Swedish defensive spirit. Somewhat embarrassed, or so it seemed in the previous one, the coach Jan Andersson said they would like to have more of the ball.
They didn’t have it much more; what they did was delay less on the field, be aggressive in the dispute and be ambitious after recovering the ball. Their transitions were meteoric looking for and finding Isak and Kulusevski, physical marvels in the race and the melee. That was one of the serious problems for which Luis Enrique found no solution: neither the centrals dared to go ahead to prevent their receptions nor the midfielders were pending to deter the pass towards them.
Eric and Laporte lived a torment against Isak and Kulusevski in the local counterattacks.
The two forwards led the Spanish behind, which doubled in number, although Sweden had the virtue of creating one-on-one situations, with which the inferiority disappeared. They ran so much and so fast that with the suffocation of the last meters their clairvoyance disappeared in the auction. Fortunately. Eric and Laporte had a harrowing night.
Sweden flew against it and Spain fell back, which in the static attack needed more players with overflow. He abused the team from the far centers that greatly facilitated the local task, Spain infected with the accelerated rhythm of the first half, forced later by Claesson’s goal, which he received only in the area in an action in which Kulusevski dragged three Spaniards to the sideline.
Claesson scored 2-1 alone in the area in a play by Kulusevski that dragged three Spaniards to the touchline
The appearance of Adama Traoré made up for one of the shortcomings: the lack of daring. All the balls were played against Augustinsson, whom he left nailed in the starts. But Adama, every time he raised his head, he could not find a recipient. The exits of Pablo Sarabia and Marcos Llorente accentuated the commitment to individuality, as a stimulus to alleviate the passivity of Gerard and Morata, more aware of the auction than of constructive collaboration.
The vertigo, incessant as the party was consumed, favored Spanish interests even at the cost of fitting the third party. Sweden continued to leave spaces, without closing as in Seville to defend the result. There it was a miserable draw; last night, it was an extraordinary victory that cleaned up his image.
Spain’s next game will be on Sunday. It receives Georgia at the Nuevo Vivero stadium in Badajoz, which yesterday succumbed at home to Kosovo, thus adding its first victory. An own goal by central Davit Khocholava (d. 18), condemned the Georgians to the bottom of the table.
Sweden: Olsen (7); Krafth (6), Lindelöf (8), Helander (8), Augustinsson (5); Claesson (7), Ekdal (6), Olsson (6), Forsberg (6); Isaac (7), Kuluservski (8).
Coach: Jan Anderson (8).
Changes: Cajuste (5) by Ekdal (c. 69); Kiese Thelin (sc) by Isak (c. 84); Quaison (sc) from Kulusevski (c. 84); Svanberg (sc) from Forsberg (m. 94).
Spain: Simon (5); Azpilicueta (6), Eric Garcia (5), Laporte (6), Alba (6); Carlos Soler (7), Busquets (6), Koke (5); Ferran Torres (6), Morata (5), Gerard (5).
Technician: Luis Enrique (5).
Changes: Gerard’s Adama (7) (d. 64); Sarabia (sc) by Morata (m. 75); Llorente (5) by Koke (m. 75); Rodrigo (bp) de Busquets (m. 85); Brais (sc) for Soler (c. 85).
Goals: 0-1 (m. 4), C. Soler; 1-1 (m. 5), Isak; 2-1 (c. 57), Claesson.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (5), English.
Cards: Kulusevski, Alba, Laporte, Krafth.
Stadium: Friends Arena (Solna).
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.