STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -Sweden substitute Robin Quaison struck in the second half of extra time to secure a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic and set up a clash away to Poland next Tuesday with a place at the World Cup finals in Qatar up for grabs.
The Czechs had an early goal ruled out for a foul and the Swedes had the lion’s share of possession for most of the playoff semi-final, but the two sides struggled to break each other down in a game full of tough tackling and wayward passing.
Alexander Isak almost opened the scoring early with a deft volley form a corner that flew just wide, and winger Emil Forsberg had a shot deflected past the post just before halftime as Sweden tried to take the game to the Czechs.
The attacking trio of Forsberg, Isak and Dejan Kulusevski caused the injury-hit Czechs all manner of problems but, with the Swedes missing both of their first-choice full backs, they often struggled to get the ball to their forwards out wide.
The visitors had some dangerous moments of their own, with Tomas Soucek flashing a header just wide on the hour and Jan Kuchta wasting a decent chance by curling a shot past the left post when he should at least have forced a save by Robin Olsen.
Sweden substitute Mattias Svanberg went closest for the Swedes in normal time, but his header from Forsberg’s corner was aimed straight at visiting goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.
The game finished scoreless after 90 minutes and appeared to be heading for penalties when Quaison danced through the defence before exchanging passes with Isak and slotting the ball into the net to send the home fans in the 48,628 crowd into ecstasy.
There was still time for 19-year-old Anthony Elanga to win his first cap and the young winger did his bit, holding up the ball and showing flashes of his electric pace as the Swedes ran down the clock.
“I’m just glad we scored a goal, I’m very happy right now,” Sweden captain Victor Lindelof said. “We still managed to create some chances and it felt like we were stronger than them.
“The first half was OK, I don’t think we were prepared for their duels and the way they played, but in the second we came out a better team and played better football,” he added.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris)