Play-offs: Ekdal qualifies with Sweden for the World Cup

Reaching the World Cup finals in Russia next year is a dream come true for the Swedish midfielder. “I am very proud to be a Swede this evening,” Ekdal said after the game against Italy.

Albin Ekdal has probably never celebrated a 0-0 as much as he did yesterday. The goalless draw sent the HSV man and the Swedish national team to the 2018 World Cup. Sweden held firm against four-time world champions Italy to qualify through the play-offs. “It is a great feeling to beat Italy, who are such a massive football nation. I am very proud to be a Swede this evening and to be able to celebrate with the fans in the San Siro. It is a moment that I will never forget,” the midfielder said gleaming after the game.

Ekdal could only watch on from the stands in the Milan stadium steeped in tradition. He suffered a muscle injury in the first leg and was replaced in the 57th minute of that game. It was in fact Jakob Johansson, who came on in Ekdal’s place, who scored the only goal in 180 minutes of football between the two sides. The one goal was enough in the end after an immense defensive display in the second leg. Now the team are headed to Russia next summer. “It is the biggest dream for every player to play at a World Cup finals,” Ekdal said. A dream, which will now come true.