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Low's new Germany comes at a price


How far can Spain go at Euro 2016 if they keep playing like Arsenal?

For all the understandable disappointment in their lack of cutting edge on Sunday in their opening Euro match, Spain have accomplished their primary objective. Whatever else happens in this tournament, they will not leave France with their tails between their legs, as they did Brazil two years ago. Vicente del Bosque's side huffed and puffed, tiki-ed and taka-ed and eventually secured three points with a 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic. One more point against Turkey on Friday will all but secure their passage to the next round.

Tournament football is a curious thing, and Spain will take solace from the less-than-convincing football of pre-tournament favourites France, the apparent vulnerability of Germany against Ukraine and the general uselessness of Belgium. There is much comfort to be drawn from a win.

"We're happy to start with three points," midfielder Andres Iniesta said after the game. "We've taken a step forward and now it's on to the next one. Nothing makes me happier than ending a game of football healthy and feeling good and ready for the next one. That's what it's about -- maintaining that for as long as possible."

Del Bosque agreed, focusing on the positives. "Winning is obviously important. The first thing is that we got three points and the other is that we had total control of the game. Now we have a good passage forward and we want to be as strong as possible."

Yet their bluntness in front of goal must remain a concern for Del Bosque. Alvaro Morata made a valiant attempt to lead the line. He worked hard, he ran hard, but he failed on repeated occasions to find the target. He was replaced in the second half by Artiz Aduriz, the veteran Athletic Bilbao targetman who, despite an ambitious overhead kick that his ageing frame really must have felt the next morning, was no more successful. With Nolito looking less impressive than he had seemed in the pre-tournament friendlies, goals were hard to come by.

In contrast to much of Europe, most of which has merrily dropped aspersions to monopolise possession in favour of launching frequently dazzling counter attacks, Spain continue to hold true to a more patient, occasionally soporific style of play. Indeed, there are moments when they pass the ball so often and with such little progress that they make Arsenal look like Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund. In that respect, it is a little odd that Del Bosque was happy to leave Fernando Torres and Diego Costa at home. Costa, of course, had a poor season with Chelsea and there were always fears that his robust, combative style clashed abrasively with Spain's more measured approach. But Torres knew this team well. While he is not the player he was in his heyday with Liverpool, he might have proved a safer bet.

Iniesta was keen not to dwell on their issues and justifiably pointed out that Spain's tactics had not exactly been unsuccessful in the past. "We created a lot of chances," he said after the game. "We hope it's not a problem. We had the game completely under control and that's the important thing. It hasn't been too bad for us this style, hey? Everyone wants to score more goals but it hasn't been too bad."

Morata is likely to be given another chance on Friday against Turkey, who were largely disappointing in their defeat to Croatia. Indeed, he won't get a better opportunity than this. Fatih Terim's side were poor, putting only two shots on target and wasting too many set pieces. They looked daunted by the challenge and will have to markedly improve if they're to get out of a challenging group.

Turkey fell victim to an astonishing goal from Luka Modric that caught everyone by surprise, most notably Fenerbahce's Ozan Tufan. The 21-year-old is now public enemy No. 1 in Turkey having been made the scapegoat for Sunday's defeat. Replays showed that he had been sweeping his hair back over his head as the ball fell to Modric instead of doing something constructive like preparing to block the shot.

"I don't get how a single moment in which I did my hair is deemed a mistake," said the immaculately coiffured midfielder. "And then it is put on the agenda in all of Turkey and is regarded as more important than the game itself."

You have to feel a little sorry for Tufan. An entire nation's rage is too much for anyone to take, but at such a tender age, this will hardly help his confidence. Nevertheless, you do wonder if perhaps he might be better off keeping his hair short in future. Just to be on the safe side.

But it will take more than haircut to get past Spain. Because if Morata can find his shooting boots, if Spain can start to score more than the minimum required for a win, they could banish those nasty memories of Brazil for good.

Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.


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