It was a night to celebrate for one of the hard-nut-to-crack sides in world football – Sweden as they handed Spain a shocking defeat at Stockholm. It might come as a surprise to many but they should never forget how tough Sweden could be and even the very best tasted their spirited displays in the past.

Carlos Soler got La Roja off to a dream start, but an immediate answer from Alexander Isak and a second-half strike from Viktor Claesson handed Spain their first World Cup qualifying defeat since 1993.

Luis Enrique went with a starting XI that was fairly reminiscent of Spain’s Euro 2020 campaign, with 2020 Tokyo Olympics silver medalist and senior team debutant Soler in midfield as one of the novelties.

Soler immediately repaid the faith of his coach to give his side a 1-0 lead in the opening minutes by steering home a shot one-time off the cross from Jordi Alba.

The joy was short-lived though, as less than a minute later a poor back pass from Soler for Sergio Busquets gifted a ball to Isak and the Real Sociedad man took full advantage, firing home the 1-1 equaliser past Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon.

There was little evidence of the lethargic 0-0 draw that the teams played out during Euro 2020 earlier in the summer, with play completely wide open and plenty of chances for both sides in the first half, including one for Sweden’s Dejan Kulusevski, who forced a kick-save out of Unai Simon.

Spain’s defensive frailties would rise to the fore early in the second stanza when they failed to properly deal with a Sweden corner kick and the home side took advantage, with Claesson receiving a pass in space in the Spain area and beating Unai Simon at the near post for a 2-1 lead.

With the second Swedish score, the match took on the shape of Spain having the ball and Sweden sitting back, waiting to strike again on the counter. Luis Enrique also made his first change of the night, as Adama Traore replaced Gerard Moreno. That was followed shortly thereafter by Marcos Llorente and Pablo Sarabia for Koke and Alvaro Morata, respectively.

La Roja continued to mount the pressure while also leaving themselves vulnerable at the back and, if not for extraordinary tackles from Eric Garcia and then Aymeric Laporte, Isak likely would have tacked on a third for Sweden.

Rodri and Brais Mendez were next summoned by Luis Enrique for the final minutes for Busquets and Soler, but it did not matter as the Swedish defence slammed the door shut to saddle Spain with a rare World Cup qualifying defeat.

“It’s a shame, we went for the win, and probably in our best period of the game they scored their second goal,” Spain’s captain, Sergio Busquets, said.

“The group is a lot more complicated now and we don’t have things in our own hands. We were going well, but perhaps lacked a bit of luck, but we have to continue – there’s still a number of games to go, even if right now the scenario isn’t the best.”


La Roja are now in second place in the Group B table, two points behind the Swedes and with the Scandinavians boasting a game in hand.

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