Morata celebrates scoring the only goal of the game. / REUTERS

Morata puts an end to Spain's suffering

The striker's late goal helped cement La Roja's place at the 2022 World Cup against a timid Sweden

ÓSCAR BELLOT

Spain suffered more than they needed to but have their place booked at the 2022 Qatar World Cup. La Roja managed to seal their place in next year's tournament thanks to Álvaro Morata's late goal that that took the pressure off the team- they only needed a draw- against a Sweden side that failed to register a single shot on target.

Luck was on Morata's side for his goal, as Dani Olmo's thunderous strike hit the post, and the Juventus player was quick to reach the ball, hesitate, and gently dink it over the Swedish goalkeeper.

This means that Spain will now play their 12th World Cup in a row, not missing out on the tournament since 1978.

The Spain side that showed up in Seville last night was a rugged one, with a lack of rhythm being the main concern, especially as it took time to break down a very organised Scandinavian defence. This is cause for concern in future matches against better opponents, but on this occasion the end justifies the means.

Manager Luis Enrique introduced a plethora of changes to the starting XI after their last match against Greece, switching out six players, including three of the four defenders. Busquets returned to the line-up while Morata was relegated to the bench to make way for Olmo on the wing.

Sweden also caught everyone off guard by benching arguably one of their best players- Zlatan Ibrahimovic- which left Aleksander Isak up front with Dejan Kulusevski. But the Swedes stayed true to their playing style: tight lines, a low block and giving their hosts the spotlight, patiently waiting for them to make a mistake and punish on the counter.

But La Roja were aware of their opponents' plan, keeping an extremely vigilant eye on any and all long balls that were launched, ensuring that Isak, Forsberg and Kulusevski couldn't wreak havoc.

On the edge of disaster

As the match wore on, Spain seemed to be out of ideas. This in turn made Sweden come forward a little more and create some very dangerous chances without that much effort, which fell into their game plan of neutralising the hosts.

Spain were getting dangerously close to the edge of disaster. Luis Enrique made the brave choice of not making any half-time substitutions, but after a couple of close chances by Sweden, both Morata and Rodrigo Moreno were brought on to try and score a much-needed goal.

These changes benefited Spain greatly, aided even more so by Sweden's decision to take off Forsberg. But Zlatan Ibrahimovic was introduced just ten minutes later, as he hoped to bring his experience to the pitch and make it to a World Cup at the age of 40.

But Spain held on patiently and finally got the only goal of the game, which calmed their nerves and sent 51,000 supporters into ecstasy, knowing that they had made it to Qatar.