15 June 2008

Spain 2-1 Sweden

It took me a while to see the entire match as I only saw the first half live, but I can’t quit doing these write-ups after only two games.

Sweden’s defense is better than Russia’s and it showed all match long. But Torres certainly started out the brightest, with an excellent run inside three minutes, and deserved his goal 15 minutes in. It was a gorgeously worked corner, short along the byline for Villa, moving it to Silva at the top of the box, who put in a smartly weighted ball in over the top that Torres got a leg on to in front of Hansson.

Also, once again, Villa rushed over to Torres and literally dragged him onto the ground and mounted him. Their celebrations are bordering upon illegality in at least 13 states, and I’m getting to the point where I’d kill to see the two together at Anfield.

But Sweden’s didn’t relent after the opener, getting a couple of opportunities through Elmander and Larsson before Ibrahimovic equalized in the 34th minute.

It didn’t help that Puyol (who is clearly the cornerstone of the back four) went off injured in the 24th minute, and Spain’s defense is living up to its shaky reputation, but the fault for the goal lies with Ramos. It’s getting uncomfortable bashing him in two straight articles, but I have no idea what was he thinking on Sweden’s goal. Admittedly, the move started when Torres’ shot was blocked and Sweden countered, but Ramos was still late getting back, allowing Ibra the space to control Stoor’s cross, and then dove in early, allowing space for the shot. Casillas didn’t do himself justice either, but it shouldn’t have even come to that.

Sweden’s goal wobbled Spain for the rest of the half, and they were nowhere near as effective as in the first 15 minutes. But they still should have been leading at halftime when Elmander clattered into Silva in the box, nowhere near the ball and never looking at anything but taking out the player. However, Pieter Vink had no problems with it (I’m sure Gooners remember the one he didn’t give against Kuyt), and Torres had to lead teammates away from the referee when he blew for halftime moments later.

The second half saw Spain suffer through what we’d worried about before the tourney: they had all the possession and were passing well, but with little end product. Spain prodded and pressed, but the final ball was lacking, resulting in only two really good moments. In the 62nd minute, Silva was denied by Isaksson, who also blocked Villa’s rebound. Although Villa was still able to pull it back for Torres, Andersson blocked that shot. The other was in the 67th, when Senna’s vicious dipping strike from distance after a nice run was palmed away.

But at least Spain were trying to win the game. Sweden certainly were hurt by Ibracadabra going off at halftime, and offered much less in attack because of it, but they still seemed content with a draw, unlike the Spanish.

And in the 92nd minute the tournament’s top scorer struck again, assuring the three points and top spot in the group. Capdevila sent an accurate long ball out of defense that Villa was able to latch on to, masterfully controlling the ball before getting by Hansson by poking the ball through the defender’s legs and shooting past Isaksson from corner of the six-yard box.

It’s still very early, and Spain’s notorious for bottling it after the group stage, but from what I’ve seen in the past this is an excellent result, even if they struggled for it. Aragones made smart substitutions in midfield (bringing on Santi Cazorla for Iniesta on the right and Fabregas for Xavi), and while Spain was nowhere near as successful as against Russia, they still ended up getting the second goal. Sweden were also far more hesitant to attack than Russia, especially in the second half, and it showed in the scoreline. Plus, Spain should have had a penalty, especially with the ones given against Poland and Italy recently.

Now, with top spot and qualification assured, I imagine they’ll rest a few for Wednesday’s match against Greece. Obviously, I still hope to see Villa and Torres leading the line any chance I can get, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one rested.


Mike Georger said...

so what was this rafa told us about deggen being a swiss international? riding the bench doesnt mean shit, it means youre slightly more important to your national team than jermaine pennant

nate said...

to be fair, degen was injured for large parts of the season, playing only 10 games, and was never expected to play a big part for the swiss.

normally he starts ahead of Lichtsteiner