David Villa struck two minutes into stoppage time as Spain defeated a stubborn Sweden 2-1 at the Stadion Tivoli Neu in Innsbruck to guarantee their presence in the UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-finals as Group D winners.
The game looked like ending in a draw after Zlatan Ibrahimović's second goal in as many games had wiped out Fernando Torres's 15th-minute opener on a chilly evening in the Austrian Alps. Yet Villa, the scorer of a hat-trick in the opening triumph against Russia, had other ideas as he raced on to Joan Capdevila's pass and dispatched it low into the net.
Russia's later 1-0 win against Greece confirmed Spain's progress and completed a clean sweep of groups clinched with a game to spare after the efforts of Portugal, Croatia and the Netherlands. To earn a quarter-final against the Dutch, Sweden must now get at least a point against Russia here on Wednesday.
Spain coach Luis Aragonés surprised no one by selecting the same XI that had started the Russia game, but there were only hints of the devastating fluidity of that 4-1 win as Sweden hustled and harried effectively. Ibrahimović could even have given Lars Lagerbäck's side the lead inside the opening minute only for the FC Internazionale Milano striker's normally assured touch to escape him when well placed inside the box.
Spain, playing towards the red-and-yellow masses of their supporters behind Andreas Isaksson's goal, did give flashes of the form which has seen them billed as potential champions. Andrés Iniesta's snaking run and strike had already had the Sweden goalkeeper scrambling, but Isaksson was powerless as Torres poked the Iberians in front on the quarter-hour. Villa threw the Swedish defence off balance as he unexpectedly flicked a short corner to David Silva, and the left midfielder had time to angle a ball to Torres who lunged in to turn in his first UEFA European Championship goal.
The Swedish riposte was almost instant, Johan Elmander ruffling the side-netting after he had latched on to a delightful Henrik Larsson flick. It was a warning to Spain though and – after the injured Carles Puyol had been replaced by Raúl Albiol on 24 minutes – their defensive frailties were again exposed. Elmander's searching ball from the right found Ibrahimović unmarked at the far post, and though he again failed to control cleanly, a slip by Sergio Ramos allowed him to turn and fire low past Iker Casillas.
With Ibrahimović failing to emerge for the second half, Sweden lost momentum, and it was Spain who threatened to break the deadlock soon after the hour. Silva and Villa's neat interchange of passes led to the former's shot being parried by Isaksson, who then took a nasty blow in the face as he bravely blocked Villa's follow-up. As the Sweden No1 lay grounded, Torres had sent a left-footed drive goalwards but Daniel Andersson made a timely block. Isaksson recovered sufficiently to brilliantly turn behind Marcos Senna's low drive in the 68th minute as Spain poured forward.
Though the game was being played exclusively in their half, Sweden could have grabbed a late winner as Peter Hansson turned a free-kick back across the goal where Larsson arrived just too late to turn it in. Instead the glory went to Villa, the tournament's leading scorer on four goals. Whatever happens against Greece in Salzburg on Wednesday, Spain will meet the Group C runners-up on Vienna on 22 June.