Sweden took a huge step towards reaching the knockout stages of the World Cup when they overcame a defiant Paraguay side 1-0 in Berlin.
The result means that Paraguay cannot reach the last 16, although they could still have a part to play in determining which team accompanies England from Group B. Their final match is against Trinidad & Tobago, who retain a slim hope of qualifying.
Sweden, with the bulk of the crowd behind them in Berlin’s Olympiastadion, forced the pace from the off, earning a series of free-kicks from dangerous positions as Paraguay resorted to illegal methods to stem the yellow tide.
Paraguay were on the rack and Kallstrom almost gave Sweden the lead with a thunderous effort, but his long range shot was tipped wide by Bobadilla. From the resulting corner, Lucic headed narrowly wide.
Time and again in the early stages Sweden broke with pace. On 15 minutes Ljungberg burst down the left wing and set up Ibrahimovic who was unable to trouble Bobadilla.
Paraguay eventually managed to drag themselves into the game but their patient, short passing game faltered when they reached their opponents penalty area. Their best efforts were speculative long range shots and their failure to push more men forward was all the more bewildering given Sweden‘s failure to protect their flanks.
At the other end Ibrahimovic broke through into the penalty area but his tame shot offered no threat to Bobadilla.
Lars Lagerback introduced Allback for Ibrahimovic who left the pitch at half-time clutching his groin. Allback offered a more direct threat for Sweden, but, it was Paraguay who did the early running with Valdez hitting the side netting from an acute angle.
Henrik Larsson, who looked subdued for the most part, drew a good save from Bobadilla with a curling free-kick ten minutes after the break, but Sweden were not playing with the same fluency with which they had begun the game.
Paraguay were enjoying much more of the play in the second half and Acuna was allowed two attempts on goal the second of which fizzed along the ground into the hands of Isaksson.
Sweden should have gone ahead on the hour mark when Allback broke through on goal with just the keeper to beat. Having chipped the ball over Bobadilla he looked set to tap into the empty but was denied by a remarkable covering tackle from Caniza.
Roared on by their impressive travelling support Sweden began to regain the initiative, and Larsson came close with a header which drifted narrowly over the bar.
Allback, who is rapidly making a name for himself due to the number of glaring opportunities he has squandered in the tournament, almost surpassed himself with ten minutes remaining when he was unable to find the back of the net from two yards out.
Eventually Allback redeemed himself when he set up Freddie Ljungberg for the winner with just two minutes remaining. A deep cross from Elmander found the striker who, given his abject finishing since arriving in Germany, wisely opted to head back across the face of the goal where the onrushing Ljungberg nodded home from close range.
Ljungberg almost added a second in stoppage when his curling goal-bound shot was tipped away for a corner by Bobadilla.
The result does not confirm Sweden’s place in the last 16, but it ends Paraguay’s participation in the tournament. Ultimately, a lack of ambition was their undoing and they return to South America wondering what might have been had they approached the tournament with a little more adventure.
Sweden: Isaksson, Lucic, Mellberg, Linderoth, Edman, Ljungberg, Alexandersson, Kallstrom, Wilhelmsson, Ibrahimovic, Larsson.
Subs used: Allback 46 (for Ibrahimovic), Jonson 68 (for Wilhelmsson), Elmander 86 (for Kallstrom)
Bookings: Linderoth 14, Lucic 48, Allback 60
Paraguay: Bobadilla, Gamarra, Nunez, Caceres, Caniza, Bonet, Acuna, Paredes, Riveros, Santa Cruz, Valdez.
Subs used: Dos Santos 61 (for Riveros) Lopez 63 (for Santa Cruz), Barreto 81 (for Bonet)
Bookings: Caniza 3, Acuna 51, Paredes 74, Barreto 85
Referee: Lubos Michel (Slovakia)