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Spain forwards under pressure after tough start at Euro 2016

Associated Press Associated Press 14/06/2016 By TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer
Aritz Aduriz: Spain's Aritz Aduriz, right, attempts an overhead kick at goal during the Euro 2016 Group D soccer match between Spain and the Czech Republic at the Stadium municipal in Toulouse, France, Monday, June 13, 2016. © AP Photo/Manu Fernandez Spain's Aritz Aduriz, right, attempts an overhead kick at goal during the Euro 2016 Group D soccer match between Spain and the Czech Republic at the Stadium municipal in Toulouse, France, Monday, June 13, 2016.

TOULOUSE, France — Spain's forwards are under pressure after struggling in the team's opening match at the European Championship.

Spain dominated from the start against the Czech Republic but was inefficient on the attack against a team that played nearly every man on defense for much of the game. A mix of poor finishing and exceptional goalkeeping from Petr Cech kept "La Roja" from scoring until Gerard Pique's 87th-minute header at Stadium of Toulouse.

"I could only see white after it was all over," striker Manuel "Nolito" Agudo said, referring to the color of the Czech Republic uniform. "It's difficult to play against teams like that. It was like having a wall in front of us. In the end we were able to find a way."

Nolito tried to downplay the team's struggles to find the net.

"We are not worried," the Celta Vigo striker said. "Some days we will score easily, some days we won't."

Midfielder Thiago Alcantara added: "What matters is to win matches, not to score four or five goals."

Spain faces Turkey on Friday in Nice in Group D, and coach Vicente Del Bosque will be hoping for an improved performance by the strikers to keep his team in position to reach the next stage.

"We hope finishing will not be a problem," Del Bosque said. "We had the game completely under control and that's the most important thing. Everyone wants to score more goals but our style hasn't been too bad in recent years. It's fantastic that we have great midfielders and the forwards have to be able to move and interpret what their teammates are doing."

Del Bosque left out veteran strikers such as Fernando Torres and Diego Costa for Euro 2016, and instead picked less experienced players such as Alvaro Morata and Lucas Vazquez.

Morata and Nolito played up front on Monday and both squandered good scoring opportunities. Only five of the team's 17 attempts were on target, and nearly all of those were stopped by Cech.

Morata had the most dangerous chances before being substituted in the 62nd minute by Aritz Aduriz, who played well but also missed the target when he had his opportunities.

"The important thing was to win," Aduriz said. "It's not easy to play against a team that plays tight on defense like that."

Andres Iniesta, who made the perfect cross for Pique's late winner, said Spain must get used to playing against these opponents. He said there is not a single way to break down these teams and it often takes patience to do it.

"In these types of matches, you have to keep trying for as long as it takes," he said.

Spain is trying to redeem itself from a disappointing early elimination at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when it arrived as a favorite after winning two straight European Championships and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/tales-azzoni

Spain's Alvaro Morata, left, gets in a shot during the Euro 2016 Group D soccer match between Spain and the Czech Republic at the Stadium municipal in Toulouse, France, Monday, June 13, 2016.

Spain's Alvaro Morata, left, gets in a shot during the Euro 2016 Group D soccer match between Spain and the Czech Republic at the Stadium municipal in Toulouse, France, Monday, June 13, 2016.
© AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
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