The big central defender was widely praised for his performance as the Swedes came from behind to stun Group B favourites and top seeds Spain with a famous 2-1 victory at the Friends Arena in Stockholm on Thursday night.
It was a hugely satisfying night for Helander, following up his winning goal for Rangers against Celtic at Ibrox last Sunday, as he bids to establish himself as a regular starter in Sweden coach Janne Andersson’s side.
The 28-year-old had a frustrating summer when he was left on the bench for all three of Sweden’s Euro 2020 finals group stage games as Andersson preferred the veteran Marcus Danielson as central defensive partner for Manchester United’s Victor Lindelof.
But Helander seized his opportunity when he was paired with Sweden captain Lindelof on Thursday, marking his 17th appearance for his country with a towering display as goals from Alexander Isak and Viktor Claesson overturned Carlos Soler’s opener for Spain.
It’s the first time Spain have been beaten in a World Cup qualifier since 1993 and Helander played a huge role in defying some late pressure from the visitors.
Sweden are now top of Group B with maximum points from their first three matches. They have a friendly at home to Uzbekistan on Sunday before resuming their World Cup campaign against Greece in Athens next Wednesday.
Helander’s Ibrox team-mate Ianis Hagi won his 19th cap for Romania on Thursday night as a second half substitute in their 2-0 win over Iceland in Reykjavik which revived their Group J campaign.
Hagi and his compatriots now face Liechtenstein in Bucharest on Sunday before travelling to take on North Macedonia in Skopje next Wednesday.
Rangers midfielder Steven Davis stretched his all-time UK record for international appearances to 127 when he skippered Northern Ireland to their 4-1 win in Lithuania, setting them up for a crunch Group C clash with Switzerland at Windsor Park in Belfast next Wednesday.
In the second phase of African qualifiers, Rangers pair Leon Balogun and Joe Aribo are both in the Nigeria squad for their match against Liberia in Lagos on Friday evening.