Euro 2020 Group E: Real Madrid-less Spain will look to break past stuffy trio in Sweden, Poland and Slovakia

Alvaro Morata of Spain celebrates scoring a goal with team-mates.Alvaro Morata of Spain celebrates scoring a goal with team-mates.
Alvaro Morata of Spain celebrates scoring a goal with team-mates.
Three-times winners Spain headline Group E, but progress from this section is far from a formality for Luis Enrique’s men.

In what will be their 11th appearances at the Euros – they lifted the trophy in 1964, 2008 and 2012 – they come into the tournament with lower expectations that normal as they try to move on from the golden generation of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carlos Puyol, David Villa and Fernando Torres.

Enrique’s squad is young and bold – and, curiously, does not contain one player from Real Madrid, and has 23 players rather than the permitted 26.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The most startling omission is veteran defender Sergio Ramos who has barely played this year due to injury. Ramos is Spain’s most capped player, sitting on 180 appearances, and Enrique agonised over whether to select him.

"It was a very difficult decision but he [Ramos] has not been able to play this season and has hardly trained since January," said Enrique.

"I feel bad, because he is very professional and he helps the national team a lot. And he can still help it in the future. But I have to look for the best for the squad.”

In his place comes Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte, who has defected from France to Spain, and there will be a fresh look to defence, with Eric Garcia and Pau Torres fighting it out for berths. Further up the pitch, Sergio Busquets and Thiago offer the experience and Barcelona teenager Pedri offers the flair. Alvaro Morata leads the line, flanked by speed-merchant Adama Traore and the promising Ferran Torres.

Spain are still rebuilding, though, and while under Enrique they play exciting, expansive football and have the benefit of three matches “at home” in Seville, they could be vulnerable to a more pragmatic foe.

Sweden fit that bill, although they also come into this tournament without one of their greatest sons.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, now 39, came out of international retirement back in March to play in Euro 2020, only for a cruciate ligament injury to render that move pointless. It means the goalscoring onus falls upon another experienced forward in 34-year-old Marcus Berg. However, watch out for Real Sociedad’s 21-year-old Alexander Isak and Juventus winger Dejan Kulusevski, both capable of adding stardust to a typically stoic Sweden team.

Poland are another functional rather than flashy team in Group E, but unlike Spain and Sweden, they do have their main man with them.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Robert Lewandowski is still as predatory as ever in front of goal, with an astonishing record of 66 strikes in 118 matches for his country. The onus still falls upon him to fire Poland to glory, although new faces are starting emerge, such as Brighton midfielder Jakub Moder and Kacper Kozlowski, who at 17 is the youngest player at the Euros.

All three aforementioned countries will eye up a win over Slovakia, who dispensed of both Northern and the Republic of Ireland in the play-offs. Marek Hamsik is still their star, although his shine is starting to diminish at 33, as is his Mohawk. Lined up in a stuffy 4-1-4-1, Stefan Tarkovic’s team will try to frustrate and pinch goals.

This group may lack the pizzazz of others, but it’s unlikely to be a cakewalk for Spain.

A message from the Editor: Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

Related topics: