Robert Lewandowski scored his first Euro 2020 goal as Poland held Spain to keep their hopes of reaching the knockouts.
Poland knew the defeat would mean they would not be able to advance from Group E. And bounced back towards the end of the first half when VAR gave Alvaro Morata‘s close-range finish after initially being ruled out for offside.
But Lewandowski, who had been struggling to make a difference in the first leg of the Poland-Slovakia match, equalized early in the second half when he hit home.
Spain had a chance to regroup as soon as possible after a penalty kick, awarded by referee Daniel Orsato after he challenged Gerard Moreno on the pitchside guard. Still, Moreno compounded to slam his effort against the post before Morata sent the follow-up wide.
But often, their play was predictable and lacking in urgency. And draw means that the three-time European champions have yet to win Euro 2020 after being held to a goalless draw by Sweden in their first match.
Spain is third in Group E with two points, Slovakia is second with three points, and Sweden is top with four points. Luis Enrique‘s side plays Slovakia in their final group match on Wednesday (17:00 BST) while Poland faces Sweden at the same time.
Slow and predictable Spain needs to get bitten.
This has been another disappointing manifestation of Euro 2020 by Spain. Which has failed to win any of its first European Championship matches since 1996.
From 2008 to 2012, they were the biggest competitors in world football, winning the World Cup and two Euros.
They were famous for their short passes and the rapid movement of the ‘Tiki-taka’ style. But while the long passages of passing were over, they finished 954 passes against Sweden. They failed as an offensive threat in the final third.
Against Poland, they regained control, but clear opportunities were rare because they often played safely. Square crossing rather than trying to produce the intelligence needed to open up a well-planned Poland defense.
While Morata was denied a great save late, that opportunity came in an unusual way for the Spaniards, who were lazy for a long time. And the pressure is now on their final team game against Slovakia.
Spain once had great power in world football.
Spain once had great power in world football. But now, the shadow of what they were after emerging after another loose show at Euro 2020 left them under a lot of pressure heading into their final team game.
Luis Enrique’s side was held to a 1-1 draw by Poland on Saturday. The second in a row in Group E after a goalless draw with Sweden in their first match.
It means the three-time European champions will face Slovakia next Wednesday, knowing they need to win to make sure they play in the knockouts.
“We are unlucky,” said Spanish defender Jordi Alba. “We are doing things very well. And we will definitely change things at the end. I am sure of that.
“No one can doubt our efforts. People can blame everything they want. But the momentum, the encouragement this team has is beyond doubt.”
While Spain’s campaign is faltering, on the other hand, the campaign of Poland’s has sparked into life after their talismanic striker Robert Lewandowski got his first goal of the tournament in the 1-1 draw.
No striker and weak midfield player?
Spain has conceded 29 shots in two of their matches so far. But they have conceded just one goal – a close finish of Alvaro Morata against Poland, given by VAR after being sent off as an offside.
Morata has received criticism for his performances after missing two big chances against Sweden. But he is not alone in the deficit in the Spanish attack.
Moreover, Gerard Moreno hit the post with his penalty kick against Poland, and Dani Olmo could shoot just before he was substituted in that game.
“The Spanish team still has some very good players in their squad,” England defender Micah Richards said.
“I don’t think it’s as bad as what people say about them regarding there are no any renowned big stars. However, they are short on that striker who can end their chances.”
Spanish football writer Guillem Balague believes Spain’s limitations are not limited to their attacks. “It’s probably the worst midfield that as far as I remember in the history of the team Spain,” he said.
Lewandowski encourages Poland after goals?
Spain has a lot of time to turn things around. But the progress is still far from certain in a wide-open Group E in which all four teams can still qualify.
Poland looked set to come out in 45 minutes but kept their hopes alive Lewandowski opened his tournament account.
The Bayern Munich striker has been at the forefront of the club and the country over the years. His 55 goals in 47 games in 2019-20 saw him as the best male player at the Best Fifa Football Awards in December last year.
But he has struggled in the major competitions of his country. Saturday’s goal is only the third in 13 games in the tournament.
However, the classic Lewandowski strike was a header hit from a nearby distance that no goalkeeper could stop. And it could now encourage him to add more goals and help send Poland to the last 16.
“I wouldn’t bet against Lewandowski, though,” England defender Rio Ferdinand said.
“This is an amazing opportunity for him to focus on the tournament and prove his strengths in the football world. And I think it is something that is not on his CV right now. So, with him as an inspiration, I will go with Poland to get through it.”
Who needs what in the final group games?
Everything that is left is all the teams to play in the final round of group fixtures.
Spain will continue if they beat Slovakia. They will finish third if they play draw unless Poland is winning.
In addition, Poland will go through as runners-up if they win, and the other game does not end in a draw.
Sweden needs to avoid being defeated by Poland to pass. If they lose another match that ends in Sweden. Slovakia and Poland will be split in first to third place with results between the three teams.
The defeat will see Sweden finish in third place. Slovakia will advance by winning against Spain, or if they draw and Sweden avoid defeat.