Misfiring Slovakia look for 'miracle' against Spain

Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Group E - Sweden v Slovakia - Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia - June 18, 2021 Slovakia coach Stefan Tarkovic Pool via REUTERS/Kirill Kudryavtsev

ST PETERSBURG (Reuters) - Slovakia will have to be more effective in attack after failing to get a shot on target during their 1-0 defeat to Sweden on Friday at Euro 2020, head coach Stefan Tarkovic said.

Slovakia reached the knockout stage in both prior European Championship appearances and are on three points after an opening win against Poland - but they still face a challenge to climb out of Group E with Spain to come next.

"I am an optimist," Tarkovic said on Friday after the loss to Sweden. "We will believe in a small miracle to happen and take points off Spain."

To do so, Slovakia will need to capitalise more on chances after 10 attempts at goal missed the target against Sweden.

Tarkovic said Sweden, who held Spain to a scoreless draw on Monday, gave Slovakia less room up front than Poland had.

"We could see that they were ready in the middle of the pitch, where they made it narrower and shorter for us, so that we would not have the space for passes and attacks which we had against Poland," he said.

Slovakia's back line frustrated the Swedes' attack, keeping up a staunch defence that was also seen on Monday against Poland and their record-breaking striker Robert Lewandowski.

Sweden's goal did not come from open play but a 77th minute penalty when goalkeeper Martin Dubravka tripped Robin Quaison and Emil Forsberg shot home from the spot.

Slovakia switched to a 4-1-4-1 formation after that, Tarkovic said, "but there was not enough time."

Sweden top the group with four points from two games, one ahead of Slovakia. Spain, on one point, play bottom side Poland on Saturday while the final round of fixtures - Sweden v Poland and Slovakia v Spain - will be played on Wednesday.

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

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