Spain becomes first in the group with a penalty from Sarabia that sinks Greece

Soccer – World Cup – UEFA Qualification – Group B – Greece v Spain – Olympic Stadium, Athens, Greece – November 11, 2021 Spain’s Pablo Sarabia celebrates the first goal REUTERS / Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS, Nov 11 (Reuters) – A penalty by Spaniard Pablo Sarabia allowed Spain to win a World Cup qualifying match against Greece on Thursday (1-0), so “La Roja” needs a point in their confrontation with Sweden over the weekend to secure a spot in next year’s World Cup finals.

Sarabia’s goal came in the 26th minute after a trip by Íñigo Martínez in a corner. Sarabia’s low shot found the net to the left of Odysseas Vlachodimos.

In an almost empty Olympic Stadium in Athens, Spain dominated with 70% possession and was never in danger of losing.

“We have to be in the World Cup, it is a responsibility to be at the level and for the players we have. Playing it is the best and we are all looking forward to it,” captain Koke told reporters.

“We played great football in the first half, in the second they pushed harder, but we had it under control. We deserved to win. We studied the game very well, the coaching staff gave us the keys. A great team was seen. against a very complicated and worked opponent, “he added.

With nine casualties due to injury, Spanish coach Luis Enrique surprisingly left Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and César Azpilicueta out of his starting line-up.

The young Barcelona player Gavi did join the team and Espanyol striker Raúl de Tomás made his debut in the absence of the injured Ferrán Torres, Mikel Oyarzábal and Ansu Fati.

Spain’s victory came after a foul by Dimitris Giannoulis on Íñigo Martínez, which Sarabia safely transformed.

Spain comfortably protected their lead in the second half as Greece failed to create any clear chances.

After Sweden’s surprise in Georgia (a 2-0 loss), Spain leads Group B with 16 points, one more than the Swedes, whom they host in their last group match on Sunday.

Sweden would only automatically qualify for Qatar 2022 if they beat Spain in Seville, while a draw would be enough for the Spanish to advance. The group runners-up will go to the playoffs in March.

(Report by Fernando Kallas in Madrid; edited by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond, translated by José Muñoz in the Gdańsk newsroom)

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