Alvaro Morata made the difference as Spain eked out a 1-0 win over Sweden on Sunday to book their place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Heading into Sunday’s encounter, there was very little separating Spain and Sweden in their FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers group. And a similar theme ensued in the game, as neither side looked deserving winners for most of the proceedings.
Spain unsurprisingly dominated the proceedings, retaining 72 per cent possession. However, La Roja did not utilise the ball smartly, struggling to carve out the chances, although Robin Olsen was the busier of the two goalkeepers. At the opposite end, Unai Simon did not have a single save to make, with Sweden failing to pounce on their openings.
The game continued to meander along heading into the dying embers of the proceedings, with chances coming few and far between until the deadlock was finally broken. Alvaro Morata proved to be the supersub, as he was in the right place at the right time to slam home a rebound after Dani Olmo had his shot saved by Olsen.
Spain held on to their slender advantage late on to seal a big win, which helps them book their place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. On the other hand, Sweden finished second in Group B and will need to take the playoffs route to determine whether they will make it to next year’s tournament. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Luis Enrique’s men.
Unai Simon: 6/10
It was a comfortable evening for Simon, who did not have a save to make and did more work with his feet than his gloves. He will ask for more of the same in future games.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 5/10
It was a game of hits and misses for Azpilicueta, who was never troubled at the back and kept Emil Forsberg quiet for the most part. However, he carried no threat in the final third despite spending a fair bit of time in Sweden’s half of the pitch.
Aymeric Laporte: 7/10
Stationed at the heart of Spain’s defence again, Laporte was fairly comfortable against Sweden, although there were a couple of iffy moments up against Alexander Isak. However, for the most part, the 27-year-old kept a check on Isak smartly and even made a big block.
Pau Torres: 7/10
The best of the defenders as far as Spain are concerned. Torres had no trouble dealing with the threat of Dejan Kulusevski, negating the influence of the young forward ably. The 24-year-old won five duels while making four clearances in a largely comfortable evening.
Jordi Alba: 5/10
Much like Azpilicueta on the right flank, Alba was not in full flow in this game and hardly made an impact in the final third. Defensively, there was very little troubling the veteran full-back, but he needed to do more when bombing up the field.
Carlos Soler: 5/10
Sunday’s outing was one to forget for Soler, who was sloppy with the ball at his feet and completed just 74 per cent of his attempted passes. The 24-year-old barely carried a creative threat and he needed to do so much more in this game.
Sergio Busquets: 6/10
The Player to Watch in our preview, Busquets ran the show for Spain with a solid performance at the base of Spain’s midfield unit. However, there were a couple of occasions when he was overrun in the middle of the park, which docks his rating slightly. All in all, though, this was a comfortable evening for the Barcelona captain.
Gavi vs Sweden
World Cup 2022 Qualifiers
— sm (@TacticoModerno) November 14, 2021
Gavi was a bundle of energy for Spain. Purposeful with his driven runs from the middle of the park, the teenage prodigy was the chief creator for the hosts but did not carve out too many openings. A part of his learning curve, but this was still a step in the right direction for the Barcelona midfielder.
Pablo Sarabia: 5/10
Sarabia should have been brimming with confidence after some of his recent exploits for Spain. However, the 29-year-old was pinned too wide on the pitch and did not manage to make any sort of impression despite seeing a lot of the ball. He was rightly taken off in favour of Alvaro Morata.
Raul de Tomas: 5/10
A game to forget for Raul de Tomas, who struggled to get involved a whole lot in the hour he spent on the pitch. The 27-year-old managed just one shot on Sunday, with his effort being off target. He has not translated his form at the club level for Spain.
Dani Olmo: 6/10
Olmo was the brightest spark for Spain in this game, but he, like the rest of the starters, lacked the cutting edge to make a lasting impression in the game. Having said that, it was his fierce shot that eventually rebounded towards Morata for the match-winner.
Alvaro Morata: 7/10
The player who made all the difference for Spain against Sweden, Morata was purposeful in his display, although he was a tad-bit wasteful in possession. Aimed four shots in his cameo, one of which ended up being the winner.
After scoring the goal that secured Spain's 2022 World Cup qualification, Álvaro Morata celebrated by holding up this star.
He dedicated the goal to Miguel Ángel, a Malaga boy from the 'Pequeño Deseo' foundation, which aims to make the wishes of sick children come true. pic.twitter.com/bql1QBaoKx
— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 15, 2021
Rodrigo Moreno: 5/10
On for Raul de Tomas, Rodrigo failed to make an impression in his half-hour stint on the pitch.
Mikel Merino: 6/10
On for the struggling Soler, Merino kept things simple in the middle of the park, completing all but one of his attempted passes.
Brais Mendez: N/A
On for Olmo, Mendes did not play enough to warrant a rating.
A late introduction, Rodri helped see the game out.