Sweden 1-0 Slovakia: Forsberg on the spot to boost knockout hopes
Sweden edged closer to the last 16 of Euro 2020 after a 1-0 victory over Slovakia in St Petersburg on Friday.
After beating Poland on matchday one, Stefan Tarkovic's side knew another victory would secure their place in the next round before their final group game with Spain.
But it was Sweden who produced more of a consistent attacking threat – certainly compared with their goalless draw with Spain, when they had just 15 per cent of the possession – as they sought to avoid going four consecutive European Championship games without scoring.
Alexander Isak was their most threatening player and it was the Real Sociedad striker's clever throughball that saw Robin Quaison fouled by goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, allowing Emil Forsberg to win the contest from the penalty spot.
There was little ambition shown by either side in a first half in which the only shot on target occurred after three minutes, Sebastian Larsson's deflected effort from the edge of the box proving a comfortable save for Dubravka.
Slovakia enjoyed more of the possession but were not prepared to commit too many to the attack, while Sweden seemed content to wait for their chances.
Their first real openings came just before the hour mark. Ludwig Augustinsson's header from Larsson's cross was superbly saved by Dubravka, with Marcus Danielson nodding over from the resulting corner.
Isak at last came to life in the final 30 minutes, heading narrowly over before testing Dubravka with a good right-footed shot from the edge of the box after a strong run.
It was Isak's first-time pass that saw Dubravka commit and bring down Quaison, allowing Forsberg to slot home from 12 yards and end a 365-minute wait for a Sweden goal at the Euros, their last coming against the Republic of Ireland five years ago.
What does it mean? Sweden take charge of Group E
With four points from two games, Sweden will now go into their final group game with Poland in a strong position to reach the next round.
Slovakia stay on three points and will be overtaken by Spain should they beat Poland, who must avoid defeat if they are to finish in the top two.
Isak at last provides the spark
After a deeply uninspiring first half, it was Sweden who began to take more risks after the interval as Isak became increasingly involved.
The striker completed six dribbles, the most by any player in a single game at this tournament, and provided the moment of inspiration that led to the penalty.
Slovakia pay for caution
Slovakia seemed to have the game more or less under control in the first half, but they did not match Sweden's improved intensity after the interval.
Their possession dropped from 61.4 per cent to 54.5 per cent from the first half to the second, while they failed to manage a shot on target throughout.
Key Opta Facts
– Sweden have won four of their past seven games at major tournaments (D1 L2), as many victories as they had managed in their previous 19 games at the World Cup and European Championships combined.
– Slovakia saw their six-game unbeaten run across all competitions come to an end, with this their first defeat since November 2020 in the UEFA Nations League (2-0 v Czech Republic).
– Sweden have kept a clean sheet in their opening two games of a major tournament (World Cup and Euros) for the third time, having previously done so at the World Cup in 2006 and 1974.
– Slovakia failed to record a shot on target in this game, just the second time a team have failed to do so at Euro 2020 so far (also Turkey Italy). It was the first time in their 10 games at major tournaments (World Cup and Euros) they have failed to record at least one in a match.
– The combined average age of the two starting XIs in this game was 30 years and 125 days; only once previously at the European Championships has a game featured a higher combined average age across two teams (30y 178d – Greece v Sweden at Euro 2008).
Sweden face Poland in St Petersburg and Slovakia meet Spain in Seville, with each game on June 23.