Thiago off the bench to help Spain ease into Euro 2020 knockouts

BEN PAINTER reports on Thiago’s performance off the bench as Spain blew Slovakia away to secure a place in the Euro 2020 knockout stages.

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Thiago started the game on the bench with Pedri and Koke used in the midfield roles once again by Luis Enrique, but captain Sergio Busquets replaced Rodri in the holding role.

Spain went into the game needing all three points if they wanted progress into the knockout rounds of the tournament, after disappointing draws in their opening two fixtures.

In the 11th minute Spain should have broke the deadlock after VAR gave them a penalty after a foul on Koke – but Álvaro Morata’s effort was saved by Martin Dúbravka for Slovakia.


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But the Newcastle United man went from hero to zero. PSG’s Pablo Sarabia shot from outside the area cannoned off the bar and went up in the air, but the goalkeeper misjudged the drop and, instead of pushing it over the crossbar, he fumbled it into his own net.

Things got even better for Thiago and Spain when Gerard Moreno got on to a ball over the top before the Slovakian ‘keeper got there and crossed it into Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte to head home his first Spain goal.

After a shaky start to the tournament, Enrique’s men turned it on in this game despite not having the Liverpool playmaker in the team. They were three up and cruising when Jordi Alba found Sarabia in the box.

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In the 67th minute things went from bad to worse for Slovakia. Ferrán Torres came off the bench to score with his first touch of the game to make it 4-0.

Four minutes later, Thiago entered the game in place of captain Busquets to play in the holding role – and immediately he was involved.

After a lose ball from a corner Thiago met the ball on the volley, but did not hit it cleanly and it was headed not well by the Slovakia defender into the air and eventually scrambled in by the Slovakia defenders. 5-0 to Spain.

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Thiago played well in his 20 minutes on the pitch. In the 80th minute he tracked back to win an important last-minute tackle – the game was already won but the desire to do well for his country was there.

With three minutes to go Thiago nearly got an assist with an outside-of-the-boot launch into the box, but it was slightly overhit and Dúbravka was able to claim.

After Sweden beat Poland 3-2, knocking them out of the tournament, Spain’s comfortably victory ensured they finished runners-up and will face Croatia in the first knockout round.


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