Seville: Spain's Alvaro Morata came off the bench to strike a late winner as they qualified for next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar by beating stubborn visitors Sweden 1-0 in a tense clash on Sunday.
Morata struck in the 86th minute when he cleverly lifted the ball over Sweden's Robin Olsen after Dani Olmo's fierce drive was pushed onto the post by the keeper and fell into his path.
Spain, who won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, finished top of Group B with 19 points, four ahead of the second-placed Swedes who could still qualify through the play offs in March.
"I felt more pressure now then in the Euros," said Spain manager Luis Enrique, whose side lost to eventual winners Italy on penalties in this year's European Championship semifinals.
"We tried to work a lot on the mental side, always trying to keep it positive and the players responded well. I'm so proud of them and how they responded."
Spain, playing in front of 52,000 fans in the sold-out La Cartuja stadium, had never lost a home game in World Cup qualifiers and kept their record intact in Seville.
They had only ever lost four of 52 games in the city.
"We knew it was a life and death situation and we wanted to qualify at any cost. Nobody said it was going to be easy and I'm happy for our people," Sergio Busquets told reporters.
It will be Spain's 16th appearance, and 12th in a row, in 22 World Cups. The last time they failed to qualify was in 1974.
Serbia stun Portugal
Serbia clinched an automatic berth in the 2022 World Cup finals after a 90th-minute header by half-time substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic gave them a comeback 2-1 win over Portugal in their Group A qualifier on Sunday.
The result lifted Serbia into top spot on 20 points, three more than second-placed Portugal who only needed a draw to finish top on goal difference and qualify but will now head into the March play offs.
Mitrovic beat home goalkeeper Rui Patricio with a downward header at the far post to spark wild celebrations on Serbia's bench after visiting captain Dusan Tadic had cancelled out an early Renato Sanches opener for Portugal.
Jubilant fans thronged central Belgrade, bringing traffic at the main Republic Square to a halt as they waved Serbian flags and hooted their car horns.
With Portugal's talismanic captain Cristiano Ronaldo stifled, they produced little up front and midfielder Joao Palhinha conceded the home side were below par.
"We have to take responsibility because we had a poor game," he told Portugal's RTP television. "We just defended in the second half. Credit to Serbia, they played very well but we had the capacity to be on top.
"Everyone in the dressing room is disappointed but we have to look ahead to the play offs now because we are more than good enough to be in the World Cup.
"You can't win all the time. Difficulties are part of life and this feeling should give us more strength."
Croatia clinched an automatic berth in next year's World Cup finals in dramatic fashion as a late Fedor Kudryashov own goal gave them a 1-0 home win over Russia in their crunch Group D qualifier on Sunday.
Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runners-up, jumped above Russia to top the standings on 23 points from 10 games, one more than the second-placed Russians who will head into the March play offs.