Ruthless Spain beats Slovakia, qualifies for Knock-out stage

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Slovakia are thrashed 5-0 by Spain in the final group match, which included two own goals, on Wednesday.

A day Spain’s perpetual possession was translated into goals. Propelled by the irresistible Pablo Sarabia, they inflicted a thrashing to surge into the last-16 stage. And yet a team long defined by control prospered because of a moment of comedy as Slovakia produced a performance of hideous haplessness.

Only Alvaro Morata missed out. It summed up his fortunes when he came off and his replacement, Ferran Torres, scored with his first touch. The striker’s crisis of confidence continued, the distinctly fallible forward missing a penalty but Spain need not rue his profligacy on this occasion.

They scored two own goals. The first was catalytic and farcical. When Spain required a helping hand, Martin Dubravka obliged. He opened the floodgates, pawing the ball into his own net. The 2008 and 2012 European champions had been threatened with elimination. Instead, they delivered the biggest win of Euro 2020.

They had a solitary strike to show for an average of 80 percent of possession in their opening two games and history briefly threatened to repeat itself until the strangest of the tournament’s many own goals.

Initially, there were hints of the sublime as Sarabia struck the bar with a 20-yard effort. Then came the ridiculous as Dubravka, jumping and facing his own net, contrived to push the ball into it, rather than over the bar.

For him, the cliched journey from hero to villain came in a matter of minutes. Dubravka had saved Morata’s spot-kick, a feat he then rendered redundant with an awful mistake.

Then he spilled Pedro’s through pass, getting caught in no-man’s land as he allowed Gerard Moreno to cross and Aymeric Laporte looped a header in. It was the first international goal for a player who long hoped to play for France.

Spain must hope that rediscovering their scoring touch will spare them shootouts in the knockout stages. Their record from 12 yards is abominable. They have now missed their last five penalties and if Sergio Ramos, who failed twice in the same game last autumn, is not in their squad, they have a lack of takers.

 

 

Tobi Sangotola/Thenational
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