Zlatan’s the man as Sweden book play-off spot

zlatanAn 86th minute strike by star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic saw off Austria in Solna on Friday and ensured Sweden’s advance to the play-off stages for the 2014 Brazil World Cup. Austria, who trailed Sweden by three points going into the game with two matches remaining, knew that a point would have kept their hopes of claiming the all-important second place and the play-off spot that goes with it alive, particularly as Sweden’s last game was against group leaders Germany and theirs was against-bottom-of-the-table Faroe Islands.

The visitors took the lead in the 29th minute through Martin Harnik following good build-up play by Marko Arnautovic and Marc Janko. However, the hosts equalised in the 56th minute when left-back Martin Olsson headed Ibrahimovic’s delicate chip home.

And Austria’s fading World Cup dream was finally put to the sword when the Paris St Germain forward got on the end of Kin Kallstrom’s through ball and slotted home in the cool, calm and collective manner he has built his reputation with.

In Tuesday night’s dead rubber, already-qualified Germany and second-placed Sweden played out an incredible eight-goal thriller in Solna, with the visitors coming out victorious in a 5-3 win to wrap up the group in front of almost 50,000 spectators.

With both teams already securing first and second place in the group, they threw caution to the wind and treated the crowd to a game to remember. Two first-half strikes by Sweden’s Tobias Hysen and Alexander Kacaniklic put the hosts 2-0 up, but Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil pulled one back on the stroke of half-time.

Despite already qualifying, Germany were in no mood to lie down and came out from the interval all guns blazing. Bayern’s Mario Gotze soon equalised before Chelsea’s Andre Schurrle scored twice to put the visitors 4-2 up. Hysen grabbed his second to bring Sweden within touching distance, but Schurrle completed his hat-trick, and a memorable night, on 76 minutes.