Spain 1-0 Sweden: Alvaro Morata strikes late to confirm World Cup place as Swedes face playoffs
UEFA World Cup 2022 Qualifying, Estadio de La Cartuja: Spain 1 (Morata 86’), Sweden 0.
Alvaro Morata of Spain celebrates with teammates after scoring their side's first goal during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Spain and Sweden at Estadio de La Cartuja on November 14, 2021 in Seville, . (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images
In the 16th-minute, Emil Forsberg - having been afforded the space to run and shoot from the edge of the box - failed to hit the target. The RB Leipzig forward went even closer with a first-time volley that drifted agonisingly wide of Unai Simon's far post.
Spain were almost the makers of their own undoing immediately after the restart when Cesar Azpilicueta's misplaced pass presented Alexander Isak with a gilt-edged chance but he opted for power rather than placement and blazed over.
The hosts responded when Raul De Tomas glanced a header just wide as the game threatened to open up.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was introduced in the 73rd-minute as Sweden threw everything at their opponents in search of a match-winner, but it was Luis Enrique's sub Morata who made the difference, slotting home in the 86th-minute, pouncing on the rebound after Dani Olmo hit the post to send the 50,000 home supporters wild.
Victory means Spain finish four points clear of Sweden, who now face an agonising wait to discover their opponents in the playoffs.
TALKING POINT - Wasteful Sweden left to rue what could have been
When the dust settles, Sweden manager Janne Andersson will still be left wondering how his side have not qualified for the World Cup automatically.
At the start of this international break, Sweden were top of Group B, knowing a victory over Georgia would put them on the brink of qualification. However, a poor performance was punished as they fell to a shock 2-0 defeat, meaning they had to beat Spain in their own backyard.
That was never going to be an easy task considering Spain have never lost a home World Cup qualifier. And yet Sweden created more than enough chances to win the game but were wasteful in front of goal. Andersson's decision-making was baffling as he took off his most dangerous attackers - Forsberg and Dejan Kulusevski - and gave Ibrahimovic less than 20 minutes to make an impact.
Sweden's fate will now be decided in the lottery of the playoffs, but it could - and arguably should - have been a very different story.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Gavi (Spain)
Another mature performance from a teenager who continues to belie his young age. He controlled the midfield with his driving runs, quick passing, intelligent movement and relentless pressing.
Spain's midfielder Pablo Gavi (L) fights for the ball with Sweden's forward Viktor Claesson during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification group B football match between Spain and Sweden, at La Cartuja Stadium in Seville, on November 14, 2021.
Image credit: Getty Images
Spain: Unai Simon 6, Azpilicueta 5, Laporte 6, Pau Torres 6, Jordi Alba 5, Gavi 8*, Busquets 6, Soler 6, Sarabia 6, Olmo 7, De Thomas 6.. subs: Morata 7, Rodrigo 5, Merino 5, Rodri N/A, Mendez N/A.
16' - Sweden go close! Forsberg is afforded space to run and run as the Spain defenders retreat. He takes aim from the edge of the box and his shot is agonisingly wide! Did it take a touch off a defender? The referee signals for a goal-kick. That was a great chance!
39' - So close! I thought that was in! Forsberg is left unmarked at the far post to meet Augustinsson's cross. He hits it first time on the volley and that's only just wide! Despite Spain's domination, Sweden have created the best two opportunities!
49' - What a chance for Sweden! The visitors ought to be ahead but Isak has made a mess of a golden opportunity! Azpilicueta gives a shocking ball away across his own goalmouth, the ball is laid back to Isak and he goes for power rather than placement, blazing it miles over!
52' - Spain's turn to threaten! Sarabia delivers the corner, De Tomas flicks it on at the near post and it bounces just wide at the far post!
86' - GOAL! Spain 1-0 Sweden (Alvaro Morata): That settles it, Spain are going to Qatar! Olmo's fine strike hits the post but Morata is in the right place at the right time to control and slot home the winner!
Alvaro Morata has played 50 games for Spain in all competitions since November 15, 2014; since then, he is his country's top goalscorer with 23 - ten more than any other player.