Slovakia's dream start in Euro 2020 turns to nightmare

·2-min read
Euro 2020 - Group E - Slovakia v Spain

SEVILLE (Reuters) - Slovakia opened their second European Championship with a bang - a surprise 2-1 defeat of Poland.

However, those two goals turned out to be the Slovaks' sole chances on target as their campaign faded as quickly as their attack and collapsed with a humiliating 5-0 thrashing by Spain.

In between those games, Slovakia made no impact on Sweden's miserly defence in a 1-0 defeat and looked utterly punchless against Spain in the tournament's worst margin of loss so far.

"We just didn't create chances," coach Stefan Tarkovic lamented after the Spain match on Wednesday.

"There was just a huge difference between us and Spain."

On paper, Slovakia's third place in Group E looks respectable. But it was a regression from reaching the knockouts in 2016 - thanks to their terrible goal difference of minus five which put them among the worst third-place finishers.

Tarkovic, an assistant at Euro 2016, had been hopeful after the first two matches, especially given they only lost to Sweden on a penalty. But Spain, finally clicking with nine attempts on target, were a reminder of where Slovakia want to get.

'BEAUTIFUL SPAIN'

"The Spaniards showed some beautiful combination football," said Slovakia's most-capped player, 33-year-old midfielder Marek Hamsik. "We gave them a lot of space. We defended a lot, and did not have the strength to attack.

"Two-and-a-half matches were good and we have something to build on."

Slovakia may now have to seek new blood after relying on veterans like Hamsik for the backbone of their team.

Former national team coach Jan Kocian said Slovakia lacked fluency. "There is no plan how to get from defence to the forwards. It is very hard to play when that link does not exist," he said, according to state broadcaster RTVS.

And another former coach, Dusan Galis, said Slovakia got what they deserved after no attempts on the Spanish goal.

"I am a realist. If the quality of our league doesn't change, there will be no interest in our players," he said, explaining it will then be hard to expect breakout performances on the national level.

"The Euros have shown us where the modern game is developing."

(Reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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