WC Qualifiers: Spain qualify for 2022 World Cup, Sweden left facing playoffs
- Spain kept their heads down and beat Sweden 1-0 on Sunday
- Alvaro Morata scored the winner in the qualification decider
- "We worked hard to make it to this World Cup," said Morata
With the FIFA World Cup spot on the line, Spain kept their heads down and beat Sweden 1-0 on Sunday, thanks to a goal from substitute Alvaro Morata. La Roja will be making their 12th straight appearance at the tournament next year after topping Group B and securing an automatic spot for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, leaving Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s team facing the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the 40-year-old Ibrahimovic came off the bench in the 74th minute but couldn’t spark the visitors to victory, which was the only result for Sweden to avoid the playoffs next year.
Juventus forward Morata scored the winner in the qualification decider in Seville from inside the box in the 86th minute after a long-range shot by Dani Olmo ricocheted off the post.
"We worked hard to make it to this World Cup," said Morata, who was criticised by Spanish fans when he played in Seville during the European Championship earlier this year. "We've gone through some difficult moments together but the World Cup is where we deserve to be."
Spain ended with 19 points, four more than Sweden, who will be pitted against the other nine UEFA Nations League runners-up and two group winners. In March, the 12 nations will compete in three four-team rounds in the playoffs. In the bracket semifinals, the seeded clubs will play at home.
Sweden was coming off a 2-0 loss to Georgia, which saw them fall behind Spain in the group rankings.
The Swedes advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2018, but failed to qualify for the event in 2014 and 2010.
Since 1978, Spain has qualified for every World Cup, earning their lone worldwide championship in South Africa in 2010. It was knocked out of the 2018 World Cup in the final 16 by host Russia.
Spain controlled possession but were unable to make many important scoring changes in front of a crowd of more than 50,000 at La Cartuja Stadium. Sweden's most dangerous player was Alexander Isak, who squandered one of the team's finest chances in the second half with a shot that went over the crossbar.
With inputs from the Associated Press