Sweden 1-1 Spain: 3 Talking Points | Euro 2020 Qualifiers
A stoppage-time equalizer courtesy of substitute Rodrigo broke Swedish hearts to secure Spain's place at Euro 2020 next summer while maintaining their unbeaten record with two qualifying fixtures still to play.
Robert Moreno made six changes to the team who drew 1-1 against Norway on Friday, but you could excuse their confidence after a dominant 20-minute spell saw them create chances galore: forcing goalkeeper Robin Olsen into a string of excellent saves to keep the scores goalless.
Fabian Ruiz and Thiago Alcantara came close to breaking the deadlock in the first ten minutes, the latter being thwarted after attempting to round Olsen with the goal gaping. Rodri too was denied, this time from point-blank range at a poorly-defended corner before debutant Gerard Moreno saw his headed effort tipped past the far post minutes later.
25 minutes in, the tide drastically turned and for all their dominance, Spain were suddenly on the ropes. Gent fullback Mikael Lustig stung David de Gea's gloves with a sweetly-struck effort from distance before Mainz midfielder Robin Quaison had his header acrobatically tipped over the crossbar by the Manchester United number one.
Emil Forsberg came close after a mazy individual run before half-time, though the warning signs were there. Within five minutes of the restart, Sweden were deservedly ahead.
David de Gea's double save was ultimately in vain as Marcus Berg reacted quickest to flick home a rebound in the six-yard box. Ten minutes later, their issues were compounded as de Gea - hampered by an earlier hamstring complaint - couldn't continue any longer. He limped off and was replaced by Kepa Arrizabalaga, with Spain aiming to recover from a precarious situation.
La Roja's persistence finally paid off in cruel fashion. Alexander Isak's headed clearance inadvertently teed up an unmarked Ruiz near the far post and the playmaker drilled the ball back across goal with a cluster of players ball watching. Rodrigo reacted quickly to pounce on the chance, slotting it home to equalize and prompt wild celebrations on the touchline - Spain knew they were fortunate to come away with a point.
Their second successive draw, coupled with Alexander Sorloth's stoppage-time equalizer against Romania, means Spain have secured their Euro 2020 status as leaders in Group F while Sweden remains second, but only just. They play third-placed Romania, who are just one point behind, next month. Without further ado, here are three talking points from this fixture:
#3 Moreno has important decisions to make going forward
Spain made headlines last week after Robert Moreno fielded eleven different players from eleven different clubs during their 1-1 draw with Norway, which was both refreshing and worrying. Refreshing in the sense that his presence grants more opportunities for lesser-fancied players, who all have something to prove if they want to remain in the international setup going forward.
Worrying though, because the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly that often dominated these squads also formed a significant portion of their world-class players. If you scan the 23-man squad, player-for-player, how many are truly left? Sergio Ramos and Sergio Busquets - both declining, David de Gea plagued by inconsistency, maybe Dani Carvajal/Thiago? Who else?
This is where picking the right players to suit your playing style is key: Moreno trialed different formations and personnel over this international break and you can sense he's starting to establish his strongest eleven.
However, the problem remains in midfield and attack. Fabian Ruiz and Thiago Alcantara are Spain's best two current creators but cannot fit into a 4-3-3, while the Busquets/Rodri debate will continue to intensify as time and the proverbial torch passes from one to his natural successor.
Santi Cazorla is 34 but remains a useful creative option, like Dani Ceballos. He flatters to deceive and is rather ineffective when not playing in his preferred role. But where truly is that? Rodrigo netted his eighth Spain goal on this occasion, but he'll be jostling with Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer once the latter returns to full fitness. Which formation is best? 4-3-3? 4-3-1-2? 4-2-3-1?