Spain top scorer with worries at the front at Euro 2020

Spain top scorer with worries at the front at Euro 2020

Spaniard Alvaro Morata celebrates with his teammate Pedri after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the Euro 2020 football championship round of 16 match between Croatia and Spain, at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, Denmark, Monday, June 28, 2021.

Spaniard Gerard Moreno, right, challenges for the ball with Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen, left, during the Euro 2020 Football Championship Group E match between Spain and Sweden in Seville, Spain, Monday, June 14, 2021.

Spanish manager Luis Enrique shouts during the quarterfinals of the Euro 2020 football championship between Switzerland and Spain, at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Friday, July 2, 2021.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Spain has advanced to the semifinals of the European Championship as the highest scoring team in the tournament.

However, don’t be fooled.

The biggest flaw in Spain’s quest for a third continental title in the last four editions lies in the shortcomings at the front.

Take, for example, the victory over Switzerland in the quarter-finals of the Euro 2020 on Friday.

The Spaniard had 28 shots in a match that went to extra time and penalties, in which the Swiss played with 10 men for about 45 minutes. Towards the end, it looked like target practice against overworked Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer.

Still, Spain ended the 120 minutes after relying on an own goal in a 1-1 draw, even missing two of its penalties in an error-ridden shootout that the team won 3-1.

The problem for Spain coach Luis Enrique is that he has nowhere to go.

First-choice striker Alvaro Morata has the full support of Luis Enrique, but – not for the first time in his career – looks like a lackluster player, who has been abused on social media after turning down many big opportunities in the group stage.

Gerard Moreno is the other striker in Spain’s Euro 2020 squad, replacing a tired Morata after just 54 minutes against Switzerland. The Villarreal player, who scored 30 goals in Spain last season, had at least four clear chances to score – one from the six-yard box – but lost them all.

Of the 12 goals scored in Spain’s tournament so far, Moreno has none and Morata has two.

“It’s pretty clear what Morata and Gerard went through here,” said Luis Enrique.

Spain have made their way to the semi-finals in an unconventional way, playing the first two games – scoring just one of 29 shots on target against Sweden and Poland – and finally finding a lead in a 5-0 win in the must win game against Slovakia.

Then came that wild 5-3 win over Croatia in the round of 16 that looked to be a turning point for Spain’s attack.

The match in Switzerland showed otherwise.

One thing that will please Luis Enrique is that Spain has had six different scorers at Euro 2020. The midfield performs, with tournament-high possession of 67.2% and the best passing accuracy of all teams at 89.4%.

According to UEFA statistics, Spain has had 365 strikes during the tournament – 69 more than Italy in second place. Only three teams have more than 200.

That’s all well and good if there are strikers to finish them off. But that’s not the case as Spain faces a semi-final match against a defensive behemoth in Italy.

More AP football: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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