World News

Alexander Isak steals the show in Sweden's Euro 2020 opener against Spain

Ross Jackson
Alexander Isak tormented the Spain backline
Alexander Isak tormented the Spain backline / Michael Campanella/Getty Images
facebooktwitterreddit

Isn't it annoying when people pat themselves on the back after their predictions are proved to be absolutely spot on?

Well, strap yourselves in for some major 'we told you so' smugness.

Prior to Euro 2020's kick-off, 90min launched the Our 21 series as we pinpointed the best young talents on show at this summer's European Championship.

Names were chalked off the shortlist, names were added, chalked off and then re-added, yet one name that was written in permanent marker was Sweden's Alexander Isak - and his display against Spain proved exactly why.

Given the youngster's quality form with Real Sociedad last season - scoring 17 goals in 34 La Liga games - it should hardly come as a massive surprise that Isak looks a superstar, though the circumstances he was playing in as he graced a major international tournament for the first time were like nothing he's ever experienced before.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's inability to take part in this summer's tournament due to injury meant Sweden needed a talisman, a focal point to their attack, someone who they could rely on to carry a threat - quite a burden.

Janne Andersson's side found themselves penned in against the Spanish as they continued to repel wave after wave of attacks, yet in Isak they had a player capable of relieving pressure with his solid holdup play as well as being able to drag his side up the field with his quick feet and bursts of pace.

For all Luis Enrique's side's dominance they failed to really create a host of chances, with Alvaro Morata and Gerard Moreno spurning the two gilt-edged chances they did manage to muster.

However, it was Sweden who came the closest to breaking the deadlock and it was all down to the brilliance of Isak.

Firstly, the Sociedad man showed brilliant movement to offer strike partner Marcus Berg an outlet as he burst away from Aymeric Laporte, before swatting the Manchester City man off and dancing away from his desperate challenge to allow himself a sight of goal, only for his goal-bound effort to be diverted onto the post and into the arms of Unai Simon by Marcos Llorente.

Alexander Isak is marshalled by three Spain players
Alexander Isak is marshalled by three Spain players / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The chance was just a breif glimpse of exactly what Isak is all about; intelligence, pace, power and most of all brilliantly fast feet, though his second piece of magic on the night was the main event.

As Spain continued to probe and press, Sweden hit Enrique's side on the break, with Isak launching the attack following a brilliantly weighted through-ball to release Berg.

Unable to run away from the Spanish backline, the Krasnodar forward checked back and waited for support, before Emil Forsberg played the ball into Isak's feet. By this time Spain had retreated and the youngster found himself with three men to beat, but that proved not to be an issue.

A clever drag-back and swift drop of the shoulder saw Isak dance his way through the trio of Spain players, before somehow knowing exactly where Berg was at the back post and laying the ball on a plate for him to tape home - only for him to somehow put it wide.

Janne Andersson gives Alexander Isak a well-earned rest
Janne Andersson gives Alexander Isak a well-earned rest / Julio Munoz - Pool/Getty Images

It was the sort of skill that would have graced highlight reels for years to come had his strike partner slotted home, yet - far from being furious - the youngster sprinted over to Berg and picked him up off the floor - it may have only been a small gesture but it showcased just how mature Isak is for someone still just 21 years of age.

With 20 minutes to play, Andersson withdrew Isak and Sweden subsequently barely touched the ball in Spain's half for the remainder of the game, though it was clear to see the Sweden boss was desperate to wrap his star up in cotton wool for their remaining games.

He'll be key if his side are to make it out of the group and his display against Spain will have made a lot of sides sit up and take note of the prodigious talent that is Alexander Isak.

facebooktwitterreddit