World | Qualifying phase
La Roja stops in her talisman city with the aim of sealing a ticket to the Qatar World Cup in her hand against Sweden
Spain seeks to round off another task in Seville. La Roja arrives in the city that for so many years was an almost infallible amulet when it came to conjuring all kinds of threats with the aim of sealing a ticket for the World Cup in Qatar against Sweden, which he has in his hand thanks to his triumph in Athens and the prick of the Scandinavians in Georgia. There is only one step left and there is a cushion: a draw is enough to certify its presence in the atypical World Cup that will be held in the autumn of next year.
But Luis Enrique does not want to hear about speculating on the result. Logical: playing tables is usually an ideal recipe to lose. That is why he warned that they will go out to win. He knows that the Nordics will sell his skin dearly and he needs all the weapons available. Hence, it invokes the spirit of the old deeds designed in the Andalusian capital: the past as a mirror of the present to carve out an exciting future.
“As a player I remember that we qualified for a World Cup winning Denmark thanks to the fact that Seville turned the stadium into hell. They took us flying and I hope that this atmosphere will be repeated on Sunday. I hope that the field factor is decisive because it is a final in which we play the World Cup, “he claimed on Thursday after tying a lackluster but decisive victory to reduce tension in a momentous week.
It went back to November 17, 1993, when Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán hosted a match that the Spanish team reached in an extreme situation. Third in the group, two points from the red dynamite and one from Ireland, it was only worth the victory to be in the United States World Cup. The expulsion of Andoni Zubizarreta in the 10th minute left her with one less, but Fernando Hierro came to the rescue with a header from a corner and La Roja resisted to lower the then European champion and obtain the passport to North American lands.
That clash was a breeding ground to continue nurturing the mythology of the red fury, indebted in many of the epic battles fought on the banks of the Guadalquivir that have the 12-1 to Malta as the crown jewel.
The Swedish Towers
With less dramatic hues but the still latent danger comes a decisive appointment for Luis Enrique’s project, who after leading Spain to the semifinals of the European Championship weathering adversity and skillfully guiding it to the runner-up in the League of Nations, aspires to catapult it now to the Qatar World Cup. History works in their favor: Spain have not lost one of the 61 World Cup qualifying matches they have played at home.
For sure, the man from Gijón will shake the tree again against Sweden. After resting for an hour in Greece, Busquets has a guaranteed place in the midfield, where it is normal for him to give continuity to Koke and Gavi, the “brown beast” that the coach boasts. The news could come on the sides, where Jordi Alba and Azpilicueta fight to give Gayà and Carvajal refreshment. Laporte and Pau Torres will meet Isak and Ibrahimovic, the two towers to which the gold and blue ones will be entrusted. Iñigo Martínez and Fornals are the two discards.
Up front, it will be necessary to see if Luis Enrique keeps Raúl de Tomas and Morata next to Sarabia or oxygenates the trident to seek the tickling of an adversary that has become entrenched this year: a zero draw at La Cartuja in Spain’s debut in the multi-venue Eurocup and victory for the Scandinavian bloc 2-1 in Solna in the first round of the qualifying phase of the World Cup in Qatar.
The Nordics arrive convulsed by the unexpected setback in Batumi that has uncovered the box of thunder, but aware that they continue to depend on themselves to avoid the repechage. The press awarded Ibrahimovic the role of scapegoat and Isak himself had to face criticism of the biggest star that Swedish football has brought. The return of the wayward Milan striker has relegated Kulusevski to the bench, who had become a good complement for Isak and tormented the Spanish rear in Solna.
Janne Andersson recovers Ekdal, who after serving a suspension against Georgia will reinforce a midfield well equipped for transitions but not very creative in static. The counterattacks are the specialty of the Scandinavians and nobody expects them to come out in a whirlwind, but if the clock tightens and the score is unfavorable, their response will have to be seen under pressure.
Unai Simón, Azpilicueta, Laporte, Pau Torres, Jordi Alba, Busquets, Koke, Gavi, Dani Olmo, Morata and Sarabia.
Olsen, Krafth, Lindelöf, Nilsson, Augustinsson, Claesson, Ekdal, Olsson, Forsberg, Isak, and Ibrahimovic.
Felix Brych (Germany).