Spain avoid scare, seal World Cup qualification in 1-0 over Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden



Posted Monday, November 15, 2021 by ESPN

Spain qualified for next year's World Cup finals in Qatar by beating visitors Sweden 1-0 thanks to a late winner by substitute Alvaro Morata on Sunday.

Spain, who won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, finished top of Group B with 19 points, four ahead of the second-placed Swedes, who could still qualify through the playoffs in March.

"I felt more pressure now then in the Euros," said Spain manager Luis Enrique, whose side lost to eventual winners Italy on penalties in this year's European Championship semifinals.

"We tried to work a lot on the mental side, always trying to keep it positive and the players responded well. I'm so proud of them and how they responded."

Morata struck in the 86th minute when he cleverly lifted the ball over Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen after Dani Olmo's fierce long-range drive came back off the post into his path.

Spain, playing in front of 52,000 fans in the sold-out La Cartuja stadium, had never lost a home game in World Cup qualifiers and kept their record intact in Seville.

They had only ever lost four of 52 games in the city.

"We knew it was a life and death situation and we wanted to qualify at any cost. Nobody said it was going to be easy and I'm happy for our people," Sergio Busquets told reporters.

It was a nervous affair and although Spain dominated play, the Swedes created the best opportunities through the dangerous Emil Forsberg and Alexander Isak on the counter-attack.

Spain avoid scare, seal World Cup qualification in 1-0 over Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden
Spain retained their record of having never lost a home game in the World Cup qualifiers.

"It feels sour. I think we played a good first half and created chances, but the ball did not want to go in. It was not our day." Forsberg told reporters.

After playing the full 90 minutes in Sweden's 2-0 loss to Georgia on Thursday, Zlatan Ibrahimovic started on the bench and made little impact when he came on for the last 20 minutes.

The game looked to be heading for a draw, which would have been enough to take Spain to the finals, when Olmo's stunning strike rebounded off the woodwork to Morata, who had come on just before the hour mark, and he calmly put the ball in net.

It will be Spain's 16th appearance in 22 World Cups and the last time they failed to qualify was in 1974.



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