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The new-look Spanish team are favorites, Poland relies on Lewandowski

By on June 10, 2021 0


Spain is no longer the most feared team in Europe which swept everything before it between 2008 and 2012. A new generation is now responsible for restoring its former glory at Euro 2020.

Here’s a look at what to expect from Group E with Sweden, Poland and Slovakia also hoping for a place in the last 16.

Spain

The triple winners have failed to even qualify for the quarter-finals in their last three tournaments.

Luis Enrique looks to the future rather than the past as he has controversially left Sergio Ramos out due to his fitness issues and for the first time Spain is heading to a major tournament without a player from the Real Madrid in its ranks.

Instead, there are a multitude of key players plying their trade overseas. Manchester City’s Ferran Torres scored a hat-trick in a 6-0 Nations League demolition of Germany in October, while his club-mate Aymeric Laporte switched allegiance to France.

Bilbao was belatedly dropped as host city due to coronavirus restrictions, but La Furia Roja will receive a warmer welcome in Seville for its three group matches.

Player to watch: Pau Torres

Few players on the continent enter the tournament as high as Torres after helping his childhood club Villarreal win a very first major trophy by beating Manchester United to lift the Europa League.

United are among the many clubs keeping an eye on the chic center-back, who could seal a big step if he impresses as they step into the void left by Ramos and retiree Gerard Pique.

Sweden

An injury prevents Zlatan Ibrahimovic from making his international comeback, but the Swedes have a new generation of strikers looking to replace the 39-year-old.

Alexander Isak has scored 17 La Liga goals for Real Sociedad this season, while Jordan Larsson, son of former Celtic, Manchester United and Barcelona forward Henrik, is in the squad after an impressive campaign with Spartak Moscow .

Juventus’ Dejan Kulusevski could add an extra creative spark to the squad that reached the World Cup quarter-finals three years ago, but elsewhere Janne Andersson will draw on an aging core made up of Robin Olsen, Andreas Granquist, Mikel Lustig, Sebastian Larsson and Emil. Forsberg despite concerns about their form and fitness.

Player to watch: Alexander Isak

Only five players, including Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Karim Benzema, have scored more goals than Isak in La Liga this season. At 6ft 4in (1.90m), he has a strong physical presence for a 21-year-old, but he’s happier with the ball in his feet than attacking crosses.

Slovakia

Slovakia were part of the squad when they made their first appearance at a European Championship five years ago, but will do well to match that feat this time around.

Captain Marek Hamsik is no longer the force he was at his peak in Naples and now plays for IFK Göteborg in Sweden.

A 2-1 win over Russia in the World Cup qualifiers in March shows the Slovaks are capable in a single game, but the shock result follows draws with Cyprus and Malta.

Player to watch: Milan Skriniar

Slovakia will need clean sheets to turn the tide and have one of Europe’s best center-backs at Skriniar, who has been vital for Inter Milan’s first Serie A title in 10 years.

Poland

Quarter-finalists in France five years ago, the fortunes of the Poles are again largely based on the goals of Robert Lewandowski.

They are heading into the tournament under new management with the well-traveled Paulo Sousa replacing Jerzy Brzeczek, who was sacked after losing twice to Italy and the Netherlands in the Nations League in January.

Midfielders Piotr Zielinski and Mateusz Klich have played for Napoli and Leeds respectively this season and will be tasked with ensuring Lewandowski gets the service he is accustomed to at Bayern Munich.

Player to watch: Robert Lewandowski

After breaking Gerd Mueller’s 49-year record for goals scored in a single Bundesliga campaign, Lewandowski could put himself in the Ballon d’Or frame, many believed he was turned down in 2020 when the award was deleted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite scoring 66 international goals, Lewandowski has yet to shine in a major tournament, scoring only once at home at Euro 2012 and Euro 2016.

Calendar (every hour GMT)

June 14

Saint PETERSBOURG

Poland v Slovakia (1600)

Seville

Spain vs. Sweden (1900)

June 18

Saint PETERSBOURG

Sweden v Slovakia (1300)

June 19

Seville

Spain vs. Poland (1900)

23 june

Seville

Spain v Slovakia (1600)

Saint PETERSBOURG

Poland v Sweden (1600)



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