EUROPE: World Cup – Qualification
Time: 8:45 PM
Venue: Estadio de La Cartuja (Sevilla)
World Cup Qualification (WCQ) Group B finishes with a mouth-watering ‘winner-takes-all’ clash between Spain and Sweden to decide who automatically heads to Qatar, although the latter’s surprise 2-0 defeat to Georgia on Thursday means a draw would see the hosts qualify. Converting their first penalty in six (excluding shootouts) was enough for Spain to claim a 1-0 win over Greece that puts them in pole position to top the group.
However, they’ll be wary after losing to France in the UEFA Nations League final last month and being beaten 2-1 by Sweden two months ago. Nevertheless, Spain remain a fearsome proposition at home where they’ve never lost a WCQ and are unbeaten across the last four home H2Hs (W3, D1), meaning they’ll feel confident of topping their WCQ group for the fourth consecutive campaign.
Following their midweek loss, Sweden must seek inspiration from their sole H2H victory in this country back in 1988, and more recently, ending Spain’s 66-game unbeaten WCQ run in September. They must be clinical here though, particularly if Spain exert similar dominance as during their Euro 2020 H2H, when they retained possession for more than two-thirds of the match!
Now three games without a win on foreign soil (D1, L2 – outcomes at 90 minutes), travelling has become a problem for the Swedes with consecutive defeats in Georgia and Greece bringing them to this point. Ideally, they’ll win and avoid the playoffs, but they did at least successfully navigate that route to reach the 2018 World Cup by beating Italy.
Players to watch: Pablo Sarabia’s winner for Spain against Greece was his second goal in three games for club and country, both of which completed the scoring. For Sweden, Alexander Isak, who scored the opener in the reverse fixture, has netted six goals in his last ten games for club and country, all of them between half-time and the 70th minute.
- Spain’s form in last 5 matches: WLWWW.
- Sweden’s form in last 5 matches: LWWLW.