Spain overpowers Swiss but identity crisis continues
ST PETERSBURG (RUSSIA) -Spain squeezed past ten-man Switzerland to book a spot in the Euro 2020 semi-finals but time is running out for Luis Enrique to find a way of playing that is any way convincing – and the opposition gets tougher from here on in.
On Tuesday, they will take on Italy at London’s Wembley Stadium and it is highly unlikely they will get away with the kind of sloppy, ineffective football they played against the Swiss if they are to make the final.
Once again they dominated possession on Friday and attempted a staggering 1,008 passes, completing 902 of them – however, their problem was that very few of them posed any sort of threat to the Swiss defence.
Much has been made of the form of striker Alvaro Morata but the closest Spain had to a playmaker trying to set him up was full back Jordi Alba, whose deflected shot, later chalked down as an own goal, had given them the lead.
The pointless passing in the final third was more akin to Olympic handball as they worked the ball from side-to-side across the box, never really threatening to play the defence-splitting pass that would have opened the game up for them.
For all their possession they were surprisingly sloppy at times, needlessly surrendering the ball in dangerous positions that the Swiss were happy to exploit, not least when Sergio Busquets lost the ball in the lead-up to their equaliser.
Marcos Llorente came off the bench to replace Koke for extra time but the sending off of Remo Freuler saw the Swiss drop even deeper, snuffing out any space that he might have been able to run into behind the backline.
The only thing more ineffective than Spain’s passing was their finishing: of a whopping 27 chances in the game, nine were blocked and 10 were on target and though Swiss keeper Yann Sommer was superb, many did not trouble him too much.
Busquets, who was part of the dominant Spanish team that won the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euros, no longer looked capable of angling balls through the defence that cause the kind of havoc where strikers thrive, and he missed his penalty in the shootout.
Luis Enrique now has four days to work out what he wants his team to be, because this toothless “tiki-taka” passing throwback may not cut it at the semi-final stage.