Spain finished the World Cup in Russia with 80% possession and were eliminated in the penalty shootout. Now they have started Euro 2020 with 75%. Lopetegui, Hierro, Robert Moreno and Luis Enrique have refused to negotiate the DNA that led us to glory a decade ago. Against Sweden, Spain shot 17 times and five were on target with two fine reflex saves from Olsen. The Swedish player shot between Unai Simón's sticks.
Spain under Luis Enrique are a team to be reckoned with if they don't win at Wembley on July 11. They have no other option. It is beyond belief, as Del Bosque would say, if Spain had won with Ramos, Nacho, Aspas or Navas. It seems more likely that the path to goal was shorter with Gerard Moreno playing up front. Morata scampered around the pitch as he left himself in the mood with every stride. The Juventus striker lasted an hour on the pitch and Moreno came on in the 75th minute. Luis Enrique was slow to make those changes and the Villarreal nine showed it with the chances he had in just 20 minutes.
The fourth youngest team at the European Championship faced the oldest. The Swedish team made the most of their experience and implemented the plan mentioned by their coach in the build-up to the game. They closed in at the back and got the ball out because Spain's youth lacked the practice to open up defences. Jordi Alba was 19 when Spain won Euro 2008, Pedri was 5. His sporting marriage with Messi has been easy at Barça because the Argentinian has so much football. Pedri has disappeared with the national team. Olmo, Morata and Torres were ahead of him, Rodri and Koke beside him. Sticking to the wing, he found too many playmakers to know who to pass a goal-scoring ball to.
Sarabia replaced Morata. Thiago replaced Rodrigo. Sarabia found the net and almost scored the winning goal. But football is a little fairer. Thiago spent a lot of the pitch trying to move the ball around and static team-mates who didn't know how to break the yellow wall. Spain also had a plan, but it was too sophisticated to be worked out in the concentration circus they have had at Las Rozas.
Llorente and Alba asked for the ball and dared to step into the box. Two full-backs crossed balls into the box in front of the Swedish towers who always arrived before Ferrán, Morata or Dani Olmo. We are not prepared to play with a touch on the front line. That point of tactical intelligence, of millimetric precision, has not yet been achieved by Luis Enrique's boys.
The RFEF does not want to step in more mud than obliged by having Rubiales as president. They kept quiet about the vaccines so as not to bother Pedro Sánchez's government. And Luis Enrique complained with a small mouth about the state of the pitch so as not to bother UEFA. But he complained because the players let him know so at half-time. High grass, dry, with some bald patches... The RFEF should have taken care of the pitch. UEFA didn't supervise it either and the referees didn't even bother. It's no excuse, but if even the cut and the humidity have a regulation, there must be a reason. La Cartuja was an abandoned wasteland until the Junta and Rubiales saw the business of playing in an obsolete stadium with an athletics track included. Nobody wanted to fight for Bilbao's candidacy so as not to lose the votes of the pro-independence movement and, at the same time, erase Villar's legacy.
At least Felipe VI did not see Spain bend the knee. It wouldn't have been like Luis Enrique to succumb to such a gesture and sully football with cheap politics. There are other ways to fight racism. Nor did they bend the knee against Sweden. It would have to be bad against Poland and Slovakia not to finish in the top two or as the best third place. The important thing will be to see how Luis Enrique's football grows and the alternatives he offers.
The perspective says that these 24 players are being tested in this Euro to make the leap to the World Cup in Qatar next year. Very long term Luis Enrique is betting on it. Spain can't have a club mentality because their performance is tested in short tournaments.