Spain secured their fourth ticket to next year’s UEFA Nations League Final Four at literally the last moment. Thanks to a last-minute goal on Tuesday, the former world and European champion won the decisive Iberian duel in Group A2 in Portugal 1-0 (0-0) and thus pushed Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. from the top. A big loser of the night was Sweden, who are relegated to Group C after a 1-1 draw in Slovenia.
Alvaro Morata snatched the ticket for the final tournament from the Portuguese in Braga with his decisive goal in the 88th minute and secured Spain fourth place alongside the winners of the Austria group Croatia, the Netherlands and European champions Italy. The final tournament will take place in mid-May 2023. This is only the next highlight for the Italians, the remaining three nations will all be in action at the World Cup in Qatar from November.
A point win would have been enough for the Portuguese for first place in front of their home crowd, but in front of 28,196 spectators they still tried to play for victory and also had the more dangerous moments before the break. For example, Bruno Fernandes missed a long-range shot (37′). Immediately after the restart, superstar Cristiano Ronaldo had the lead at his feet, but found his master in Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon (47th). The Spaniards only came in better as the second half progressed and also increased their offensive efforts. For the Portuguese, the attempt to manage the result should take revenge in the end.
A Morata shot was fished well out of the corner by Diogo Costa (77′). Eleven minutes later the keeper was beaten. A long pass from Carvajal was extended by Nico Williams with a header into the middle, where Morata only had to complete the empty goal from three meters. Ronaldo could have equalized but was once again unable to overcome Simon, who was there with his knee (91′). Spain returned to winning ways after surprisingly losing 2-1 at home to Switzerland.
Speaking of Switzerland: They secured third place with another 2-1 (2-1) win against the Czech Republic and at the same time sent the Czechs into Group B, where Austria was also relegated. Remo Freuler (29th) and Breel Embolo (30th) secured the Swiss with a double strike in just 61 seconds to remain in the A group. Patrik Schick’s goal shortly before the break (45th) was not enough for the Czech Republic.
Serbia and Scotland up, Sweden down
Norway also remains on the second level. Goal scorer Erling Haaland and Co. had to admit defeat in the decisive game at home in Serbia 0: 2 (0: 1) and thus ceded the ticket to the A group to the guests. Dusan Vlahovic (42nd) and goalscorer Aleksandar Mitrovic (54th) scored the goals in Oslo. Ukraine were held to a 0-0 draw by Scotland in Kraków, Poland, which saw Scotland promoted alongside Israel and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
With Sweden, on the other hand, a prominent name in the coming Nations League season is only third-rate. The Scandinavians drew 1-1 at home against Slovenia and were unable to overtake Austria’s southern neighbors in the table. Salzburg legionnaire Benjamin Sesko had given the guests the lead in Solna (28′), Emil Forsberg managed to equalize for the blue and yellow before the break (42′). However, Sweden did not want to score the winning goal that redeemed them.