By Philip O’Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – A stuttering Spain qualified for Euro 2020 as a stoppage-time strike by substitute Rodrigo cancelled out Marcus Berg’s opener for Sweden in a 1-1 draw in Group F on Tuesday.
Having drawn against both Norway and Sweden in their last two matches on their trip to Scandinavia, the Spaniards will have plenty of work to do if they want to be considered among the favourites at next year’s tournament.
With Sergio Ramos suspended following his yellow card in their last game against Norway, Spain started superbly, pinging the ball from side to side and probing for openings behind the Swedish defence.
Thiago Alcantara could have put the visitors ahead early on, but after rounding the goalkeeper he miscontrolled the ball and it rolled out for a goal kick.
Midfielder Rodri had a stinging shot saved shortly afterwards and it looked to be only a matter of time before the Spaniards made the breakthrough, but with goalkeeper Robin in Olsen in superb form, the Swedes adjusted and began to grow into the game.
Fullback Mikael Lustig had their first shot on target in the 27th minute and striker Robin Quaison followed it up with a brilliant header that Spain keeper David De Gea clawed away for a corner.
With light rain falling throughout the game, players struggled to keep their footing on the Friends Arena surface.
Striker Berg put Sweden in front early in the second half after his initial header was saved, as was Emil Forsberg’s shot, but Berg nodded home from close range at the second attempt to give his side the lead.
De Gea left the fray injured on the hour mark and despite dominating possession throughout, Spain found it almost impossible to create the kind of chances they had enjoyed in the opening exchanges.
The crowd of over 49,000 in the stands were in fine voice as they ignored the damp weather with the final whistle approaching, but Rodrigo silenced them by snapping up a ball form a corner and rifling it home to send Spain through.
Elsewhere in the group, the Faroe Islands secured their first win of the campaign with a 1-0 home win over Malta, while Romania drew 1-1 at home to Norway.
Spain top the group on 20 points with the Swedes second on 15 and Romania a point further back, with those two sides set to meet in Romania on Nov. 15. Norway are fourth on 11 points.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; editing by Clare Fallon and Toby Davis)