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Gustav Svensson’s Sweden is World Cup bound

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Sounders midfielder logs 70-plus minutes off the bench to help secure shutout.

Sweden v Italy - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: First Leg Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Sweden is going to the World Cup and Gustav Svensson appears to be in a wonderful position to go along with them. Svensson played 71 minutes off the bench as Sweden held on to the 1-0 lead they built in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff against Italy.

This marks the first time since 2006 that Sweden has qualified for the World Cup and it’s the first time since 1958 that Italy has missed the quadrennial tournament.

As recently as a few months ago, Svensson had only a bit part in Sweden’s national team setup. When he signed with the Sounders during the last offseason, the 30-year-old had just six national team caps and never more than two in year.

But with a new coach in charge and Svensson having a standout year with the Sounders, he found himself getting regular call-ups toward the end of Sweden’s qualifying run.

While he was getting call-ups, Svensson was mostly being used off the bench as a late-game defensive sub. That changed somewhat dramatically on Monday when Jakob Johansson — the goal-scorer in the first leg — hurt himself lunging for a ball and had to be removed. Rather than a like-for-like replacement, manager Janne Andersson opted for the defensive option in Svensson. Although they were outshot 17-4, Sweden held on for the shutout.

Assuming Svensson’s contributions are rewarded with a spot on next summer’s World Cup roster, at least three Sounders should be representing their countries in Russia.