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Euro 2008 qualifier: Sweden defeat sorry Spain

Sweden maintained their perfect Euro 2008 qualifying campaign with a 2-0 win over Spain which will heap further pressure on their under-fire coach Luis Aragones.

Goals from Johan Elmander and Marcus Allbäck handed the hosts their third win in as many games, following earlier wins against Latvia and Liechtenstein, and left them top of group F.

It also amply hit back at critics who said that a string of injuries, no-shows and disputes between players and coach Lars Lagerbäck would spell disaster on the field.

Spain however will be going back to the drawing board, their latest setback coming hot on the heels of their shock 3-2 defeat to Northern Ireland last month.

Aragones will be under pressure, but admitted that any decision concerning his future is not in his hands.

“My future doesn’t depend on me, it’s up to the federation – and perhaps one or two journalists,” said the Spaniard.

Aragones, who tried but failed to quit his coaching job after Spain were eliminated at the last 16 stage of the World Cup, left Raul out – a first in ten years for the respected Real Madrid striker.

In retrospect Aragones might be rueing that decision after the normally in-form strike partnership of David Villa and Fernando Torres, both of whom scored against the northern Irish, failed to inspire on the night.

Elmander fired Sweden into an early lead after being picked out by Allbäck, sending the ball past Iker Casillas from the edge of the area.

Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos almost levelled but pulled his effort wide, before Casillas saved well from Niclas Alexandersson.

Elmander was unlucky not to double the home side’s advantage just before the half-hour when his drive from distance came back off the crossbar.

Sweden’s Egyptian-born stand-in keeper Rami Shaaban was not given a great deal to do until the 38th minute when he saved an attempt from Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas.

Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg limped off early in the second half and was replaced by Christian Wilhelmsson as neither team managed to take hold of the match.

Allbäck threatened just before the hour mark but his effort drifted wide.

Spain, looking more and more desperate, saw Luis García blasted over from 20 metres and his effort was followed by those of Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puyol, whose goalbound header was turned away.

Sweden then guaranteed all three points when Wilhelmsson found Allbäck and the 33-year-old beat Casillas from inside the area with eight minutes remaining.

Sweden will look for more of the same against Iceland on Wednesday while Spain will not play again until Denmark visit in March.

FOOTBALL

Croatian player tests positive ahead of Sweden match

Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday, a day ahead of the country's Nations League match with Sweden, the Croatian football federation (HNS) said.

Croatian player tests positive ahead of Sweden match
Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic (left) tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. Photo: Miguel Medina / AFP
“Brozovic's Inter Milan and Swedish epidemiologists were informed about the positive test,” an HNS statement said.
   
The player's positive result came two days after defender Domagoj Vida was informed of a positive Covid-19 test after playing the first half of a friendly with Turkey in Istanbul.
   
Apart from Brozovic, 27, one staff member also tested positive.
   
They were both isolated from other members of the national team.
   
After Sweden, Croatia play another Nations League game against Portugal on Tuesday.
   
Croatia, runners-up at the 2018 World Cup, are third in their Nations League group which also includes France, the team that beat them to the World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal and Sweden.
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