Spain v Poland
Saturday June 19, 20:00
Live on BBC
Spain fail to fire
Spain endured a frustrating opening game at Euro 2020 as they failed to make their near total dominance pay against a rigid and stubborn Sweden in Seville. Luis Enrique's side had the vast majority of possession - 85% - and territory in the match, which at times resembled a session of attack versus defence, but were unable to make a significant breakthrough.
The best opportunity fell to Alvaro Morata, who was allowed in on goal by a fluffed attempted clearance from Marcus Danielson but side-footed his shot wide. Dani Olmo also saw a close-range header tipped round the post by Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen, and Koke sliced an effort off target from inside the box.
It wasn't entirely one-way traffic, mind. La Roja saw La Liga's young player of the year Alexander Isak cause plenty of problems on the counter-attack, twice coming close to creating or converting a chance on the break.
The result did little to lift the downbeat mood of some of the Spanish public, who have seen the preparations of their national side overshadowed by the fallout of positive Covid-19 tests for Sergio Busquets and squad selection controversy.
Poland suffer surprise defeat
Poland's poor recent record in opening matches at major tournaments continued on Monday as they were shocked 2-1 by Slovakia in their Euro 2020 opener. The Poles had lost five of their six opening fixtures at tournaments since 2000 heading into the game and looked lacklustre from the off in Saint Petersburg, deservedly falling to a defeat.
Wojciech Szczesny became the first goalkeeper to score an own goal in European Championships history after Robert Mak's fine solo effort ricocheted off his shoulder and into the net to hand Slovakia an early lead. Paolo Sousa's side failed to have a shot on-target in the opening 45 minutes in a dismal display, but were level within a minute of the restart.
A lovely one-touch move, calmly finished by Karol Linetty, brought the Poles level. However, the 62nd-minute dismissal of Poland midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak for a second booking changed the momentum of the match and Slovakia took full advantage seven minutes later to score a decisive second from Milan Skriniar's fine low attempt on the turn.
Star striker Robert Lewandowski failed to have any influence on proceedings and Sousa came in for plenty of criticism from Eagles supporters post-match. Changes are expected for Saturday night with Poland now needing to beat either Spain this weekend, or Sweden, to have a chance of progressing.
Spain have tended to dominate this fixture with the Iberians earning top honours in eight of the duos 10 previous contests (W8-D1-L1). That run includes a 6-0 thrashing in the two teams' most recent meeting, a friendly back in 2010. Poland's sole success against La Roja came in a friendly fixture back in 1980 with this their first competitive clash since 1959.
Spain 1.392/5 saw plenty of market support before their disappointing draw with Sweden, and the hosts' remain hot favourites here too having suffered a solitary defeat since November 2018 (W15-D9-L1). Luis Enrique's troops have been beaten just once on home soil in competitive action going back to 2003 (against England in the Nations League in 2018).
Paulo Sousa was brought in to energise Poland 10.5019/2 as an attacking force and provide a system to get the best out of world class striker Robert Lewandowski. However, injuries to fellow forwards Krzysztof Piatek and Arkadiusz Milik have left the White-Red short of a supporting cast and Sousa's side appeared to lack any punch or panache in their opener.
Second round group games at major tournaments tend to open up with goals per-game averages increasing from 2.15 in the first round to 2.43 in the middle match of the European Championship. Since the start of Euro '96, a reasonable 47% of second round group games have produced Over 2.5 Goals 2.526/4 with 79% seeing a minimum of two goals.
Even so, it's difficult to envisage Saturday night's showdown in the sweatbox of Seville opening out into a thrilling end-to-end encounter. Expect Spain to monopolise possession and territory with Poland forced to contain and counter when opportunities arise, similar to what we saw here when Sweden held La Roja to a goalless draw on Monday evening.
Nevertheless, Poland aren't quite as trustworthy as a defensive force and so Spain are expected to make their mark. With that in mind, Spain to win and the Under 3.5 Goals holds plenty of appeal at 1.9520/21 on the Bet Builder, more so than the regular Over 2.5 Goals line at 1.9110/11. We'll be getting the 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 or 2-1 scorelines onside, the top four options in the Correct Score market.