Spain host Sweden at Estadio de La Cartuja in Seville on Sunday (2.45pm ET) in a soccer World Cup qualifier game. After leapfrogging their visitors last time out, can the hosts maintain their position at the summit of Group B?
Since their frustrating exit at Euro 2020, where they were denied a place in the final by eventual winners Italy, La Roja have found some form, winning four out of six. If we scratch beneath the surface, they’ve not exactly thrived, beating some weak teams, while they’ve failed their only real tests, losing to the French in the Nations League final. They also tasted defeat in the reverse of this fixture, losing by two goals to one in Stockholm back in early September.
Hosts yet to be tested
On the face of it, Spain has a strong home record in Group B. The hosts have picked up seven points from three games on Spanish soil, while they come here off the back of a 4-0 win. However, if we’re honest, they’re yet to be tested, and if this preview were to be very critical, given that they’ve faced Greece, Kosovo, and Georgia, they probably should have maximum points. How they do against a Sweden side that has twice proven to be a tough nut to crack in the latter of half of 2021 will be a lot more telling, that’s for sure.
Swedes slipping on the road
As they sit just a single point behind Sunday’s hosts, the Swedes are in a strong position and topping the group is far out of the question, though their away-day efforts don’t exactly bode well ahead of this fixture. First time out on the road in Group B, Andersson’s side made light work of beating Kosovo, scoring three and conceding none en route to victory, but that’s not exactly a victory to be overly proud of, while they have since struggled.
Away in Greece, they came up short, losing what was an even contest by two goals to one. They then lost to Georgia, failing to get on the scoresheet as they conceded twice on their way to defeat in Batumi. On that occasion, Sunday’s visitors were undeniably the better side, but they struggled to capitalize on their dominance, and the fact that they’re more comfortable without the ball, playing on the break, was evident.
Seeing plenty of each other
Over the last six months, the Spanish and Swedes have seen plenty of each other on the football pitch. Prior to their meeting in World Cup Qualifying two months ago, they came together at the Euros back in June. On that occasion, the pair drew 0-0 at this venue, where Janne Andersson’s men were second-best in terms of possession and efforts on goal, though they did fashion perhaps the best chance of the contest and defended stoutly en route to securing a point thanks to a 0-0 draw. A few months on and the men in yellow and blue went one step further, beating La Roja at home. In that game, they once again settled for a lack of possession, got men behind the ball, and played on the break. Andersson will undoubtedly be looking for such tactics to pay dividends again.
Betting angle at La Cartuja
It’s hardly a surprise to see the hosts approach this fixture as warm favorites. After all, they’ve got a solid record at home, arrive here off the back of a confidence-boosting 4-0 win, while the visitors have faltered a few times on the road already in World Cup Qualifying. That said, does a price of 4/11 on the home win represent any sort of value? Probably not.
The visitors have struggled to make the most of some reasonable opportunities on the road in Group B, but they should have conditions to suit this time, while they’ve shown a clear liking for coming up against the big nations in fixtures of this nature. To put it simply, this is a Sweden outfit that carries out its best work when considered a firm underdog.
Punters shouldn’t be put off odds of +125 about Sweden +1 goal on the spread. Both at the Euros and earlier in the qualification process, Andersson’s troops proved themselves capable of digging in and frustrating against the Spanish, while we know that, with the likes of Emile Forsberg, Alexander Isak, and Dejan Kulusevski, they have creativity and a goal threat on the counter. We also know that the hosts are susceptible to defensive teams playing on the break, as was evident when they drew 1-1 against Greece in Granada earlier in qualifying.
For those more interested in player-specific bets, or just those wanting something at a juicier price, then take a punt on visiting striker Alexander Isak. The Real Sociedad man has four goals in qualifying so far, including a goal in the reverse fixture. It was Isak who carried the biggest threat when the teams met at Euro 2020 too, while he’s a man who knows all about playing in Spain. His stats this season in the Spanish top-flight are good, with three goals in nine starts, an average of 0.32 expected goals per 90 minutes and an average of 2.39 shots. For all their qualities and finesse in possession, the Spaniards can often be caught out on the break, so it would be little surprise if the 22-year-old found himself with opportunities, and at odds of +390, it’s worth a small bet that he takes one. So these are our betting predictions and picks for this soccer World Cup qualification game preview: