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Sweden thrilling victory against Poland and Spain rout over Slovakia set them atop Euro’s Group E

Close to the end... of the group stage

Slovakia v Spain - UEFA Euro 2020: Group E Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Sweden and Slovakia arrived at the final day of Euro’s groups stage as the unlikely duo leading Group E. Only one of them would “survive” the ultimate test however, with Sweden overcoming Robert Lewandowski’s best attempt to push Poland to the knockout phase with a 3-2 victory, and a first-place finish; and Slovakia not putting a good enough defensive to contain Spain’s impetus, falling 5-0 to La Furia Roja in Seville and letting the one-time World Cup winners take over the second-place spot from them.

Sweden were the surprising leaders of Group E coming to today’s match, and they wanted to finish group stage that way. And they got much closer to the feat only two minutes after kickoff, as a bad defensive play from Poland and smart pressing from the Blågult created a great setup from Alexander Isak to Emil Forsberg try his luck. And the RB Leipzig attacking midfielder would not waste the chance to score his side’s first goal of the day.

For Sweden, the final whistle could be blown right after Forsberg’s score. But there was still at least 88 minutes of playing time ahead of them, and Poland would be at their utmost annoying side with Robert Lewandowki keen on carrying them to the knockout stage — and getting pretty close to tying the match if it was not for a double crossbar hit.

That was the closest Poland got to threatening Sweden’s lead in the first half, and they would keep up the pressure after halftime. But the hosts, noticing how Lewandowski’s side were more exposed to incisive attacks, would then double their lead after a great run by Dejan Kulusevski from Sweden’s own half to the final third to set up Forsberg’s brace.

But a team with Lewandowski at the helm can never be counted out, as the Bayern Munich striker himself proved a couple of minutes later. All he needed was a good pass from Piotr Zielinski and a bit of space in the box to score a beautiful goal that would put Poland back in the fight.

All Sweden could do after seeing their lead reduced to a single goal was to keep a tight defence and hope for the best. From the barrage of Polish chances that ensued, one of them fell at Lewandowski’s feet after a great cross from Przemyslaw Frankowski. All the striker had to do was turn 180º and score his second goal today — and the tying one for Poland.

The result was not enough to put Poland in the running for a knockout stage spot, and they did try to score a third to overcome Sweden both on the pitch and in the group standings. But a loose ball in midfield turned disastrous for the Eagles, as it became Sweden’s third — and winning — goal via Viktor Claesson.

A goalless draw would be enough to have Slovakia finish at least third place in Group E, and thus have a chance at advancing to the knockout stage via best third-placed slot. It became clear from the very beginning that Slovakia would have no qualms in “turtling” and let Spain perhaps tire themselves from so much possession and attempts at goal they would have.

Their plan was almost set to fail after a penalty foul by Jakub Hromada on Koke only 10 minutes after kickoff. Designated penalty taker and former Chelsea striker Álvaro Morata stepped up to the spot and had his attempted saved by goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.

Dubrakva gaveth hope to Slovakia... and Dubravka taketh away. In an attempt to clear the ball away from the six-yard box after a Pablo Sarabia shot that hit the crossbar, the shot-stopper punched the ball into his own net. 1-0 to the Spaniards!

There was still time in the first half for Spain to add to their lead. A bad clearance following a Spanish corner kick became a scramble in Slovakia’s 18-yard box. From the right side of the box, Gerard Moreno lobbed the ball to Aymeric Laporte for the latter to score his first ever goal for La Furia Roja.

Spain’s third goal would come in typical tiki-taka fashion, with loads of passes and little runs into Slovakia’s defensive third in an attempt to open up spaces for any players to put a good finishing touch to the ball. The lucky one here was Sarabia, with a simple finish to convert Jordi Alba’s cross turned assist.

The fourth goal for the hosts started in a short corner and a one-two between Sarabia and Pedri. The former would then set up Ferran Torres with a low pass in the box, whose flick was enough to beat Dubravka a fourth time today.

Another scramble in the box, another goal for Spain — and with another own goal to boot! Juraj Kucka was the unfortunate culprit behind the fifth Spanish goal, as the ball hit his legs in the six-yard box after a bit of confusion between Dubravka and one of Slovakia’s defenders on who clears the ball away from harm.

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