Spain extended their unbeaten run to 18 matches but were held to a disappointing draw by a dogged Switzerland side in Sunday’s friendly at El Madrigal. A magnificent volley by 22-year-old right back Alvaro Odriozola was cancelled out by Ricardo Rodriguez, who punished an uncharacteristic error by David de Gea in the second half.
The winners of the 2010 FIFA World Cup have been desperately disappointing in the last two major tournaments, but have not lost a match since their 2-0 defeat against Italy in the round of 16 of the 2016 European Championships.
As one might have been expected from a side who had put six goals past Argentina in their last home match, Spain made a dominant start and could have taken the lead in the opening two minutes, with Yann Sommer forced into a smart save low to his right.
The game soon settled into a familiar pattern, with veteran Andres Iniesta pulling the strings in midfield and David Silva causing the Swiss all sorts of problems with his intelligent running. Silva shot wide after a fine headed layoff by Diego Costa, but it seemed only a matter of time before the home side opened the scoring.
Sure enough, in the 29th minute, Odriozola connected beautifully with a Silva cross, striking a stunning volley from outside the Swiss penalty area which left Sommer with no chance. It was a just reward for the side who had enjoyed 70 per cent of possession in the opening half hour.
Despite being outplayed, the Swiss had a few threatening moments in the first half, both of which came from right back Stephan Lichtsteiner. In the 24th minute, the Swiss captain played in a decent cross which Gerard Pique failed to clear, only for Blerim Dzemaili’s miscued strike to bounce harmlessly over the bar. Later in the half, Xherdan Shaqiri cleverly released Lichtsteiner, but his promising low cross eluded everyone.
19 – Spain have scored in each of their last 19 games in all competitions (60 goals in total), their best run since June 1951 (20). Demolishing. pic.twitter.com/6yjws2syMB
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) June 3, 2018
Nevertheless, the Swiss must have been grateful to end the first half only one goal behind – the unmarked Costa missed a golden chance from a corner, while Sommer saved smartly from Iniesta.
To their credit, the visitors never crumbled, maintaining their defensive organisation even as they were left chasing shadows all over the pitch. Nevertheless, once again they only narrowly avoided falling two goals behind when Iniesta shot narrowly wide in the 52nd minute.
The 34-year-old midfielder received a rousing ovation when he was substituted in the 55th minute, having given a typically accomplished display in his final match for Spain on home soil. His replacement Saul made an almost immediate impact, albeit not of a positive kind – he was booked for a crude sliding foul on Shaqiri.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Swiss were gifted an equaliser in the 62nd minute, courtesy of a collector’s item – a bad error from David de Gea. He appeared to be deceived by a harmless-looking Lichtsteiner effort from the right, enabling Rodriguez to finish from close range.
The game seemed to become disjointed as the second half wore on, which was partly because each side made five substitutions. At times in the latter stages of the match, it seemed that both sides were more anxious to avoid injury than to score a winner.
Nevertheless, it was easy to see why Switzerland have won ten and lost just one of their last 12 competitive matches. For all their elegant approach play, Spain rarely opened up their visitors, and on the rare occasions when they did, Sommer was equal to their best efforts. Nacho shot narrowly wide and wasted a good opportunity with a poor header in injury time, but in the end the Swiss deserved their draw.
Spain will face Tunisia on Saturday in their final warm-up match before travelling to Russia, while Switzerland will host Japan on Friday. Both sides face tough opening fixtures in the World Cup – Spain will face European Champions Portugal, while Switzerland will kick off their campaign against Brazil, who have won the World Cup five times.