Alvaro Morata came off the bench to score a late winner for Spain and secure his side’s place in next year’s World Cup with a nervy 1-0 victory over Sweden, who are consigned to the playoffs.
La Roja started the night one point ahead of second-placed Sweden in Group B, knowing just a draw would send them to Qatar in this winner-takes-all clash in Seville.
Despite Spain’s territorial domination, the hosts failed to trouble Robin Olsen’s goal in the first half, and it was Sweden who created the best two opportunities – both falling to the same man.
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.