Spain and Croatia seal spots
SpainAlvaro Morata came off the bench to beat a late winner when they qualified for next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar by beating stubborn visitors Sweden 1-0 in a tense battle.
Morata struck in the 86th minute when he skillfully lifted the ball over Swedish Robin Olsen after Dani Olmo’s fierce drive was pushed into the post by the goalkeeper and fell in his way.
Spain, who won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, finished top of Group B with 19 points, four ahead of the Swedes in second place who could still qualify through the playoffs in March.
In the group’s other games, Greece and Kosovo draw 1-1.
Croatia automatically qualified earlier on Sunday after a late own goal by Fedor Kudryashov gave them a 1-0 home win over Russia in their quirky group H qualifiers.
Croatia, second in the 2018 World Cup, skipped Russia to top the standings at 23 points after 10 matches, one more than the Russians in second place entering the playoffs in March.
Croatia dominated a match played in torrential rain but a series of good saves by visiting goalkeeper Matvei Safonov and a waterlogged pitch kept them in check before Kudryashov’s clumsy 80-minute touch delighted the home fans.
Elsewhere in group H, Slovakia ended their campaign with a 6-0 win Malta to finish third, level on points with fourth-placed Slovenia WHO beat Cyprus 2-1 in Ljubljana.
Germany Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan scored two goals in his 4-1 victory over Armenia to finish top in Group J with his seventh straight win under coach Hansi Flick.
Germany, who are missing a dozen players through injury, suspension and Covid-19 quarantine, have already qualified and after making six changes to the team that beat Liechtenstein 9-0 on Thursday, won their ninth victory in 10 qualifying matches to finish in the top spot. on 27 points. Northern Macedonia is in second place on the 18th.
Gundogan struck on both sides of the break after Kai Havertz had put the visitors in the lead. Jonas Hofmann also scored for the Germans.
Northern Macedonia secured a playoff spot with a 3-1 home win Iceland who secured them second place in Group J, with midfielder Eljif Elmas scoring two goals in the second half.
The Northern Macedonians finished their qualifying campaign with 18 points in 10 matches, one before the third Romania who won 2-0 Liechtenstein.