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Sweden vs Switzerland
2018 FIFA World Cup, Round of 16
|Krestovsky Stadium, St.Petersburg, Russia|
|3||Shots on target||4|
Improbable Group F toppers, Sweden, take on Switzerland in St. Petersburg on Wednesday morning. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage from 12am – midnight (AEST).
Both teams have displayed moments of brilliance in this tournament – Sweden in particular – and will take a lot of confidence into this game. Sweden pulled off a spectacular deconstruction of Mexico in their final game, winning 3-0 in a barnstorming second-half performance.
Switzerland, on the other hand, has eased into this tournament, picking their moments to strike on the counter or from set pieces. They kept their defensive shape solid against Brazil, drawing equal and getting a point, and followed up with a sucker-punch winner on the counter against Serbia in a politically charged game 2.
This match represents a great opportunity for both teams to finally break their runs of Round 16 failure. Neither team has won their round of 16 matches this millennium despite being ever present (in tournaments they participated in).
Switzerland, in particular, has been unable to turn their consistent World Cup group performances into a quarter-final and will see this as their best chance yet.
Tactically this game should contain some end-to-end thrill rides. Sweden is a tactical throwback – a compact defence with two narrow banks of four with two big strikers up front to lump it to. Their squad is light-on for elite talent – the exception being RB Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg.
Sweden’s gameplan is engineered to downplay their lack of elite ability on the ball. In possession they do not muck around, looking to create high percentage shots from long balls and set pieces as close to the goalmouth as possible.
They play their two strikers Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen on the shoulders of the centre-backs to chase down balls over the top, or look to use Forsberg as the link man when he drifts inside from the left.
Sweden were second in the group stage for attacks engineered through the inside channel, and 74 per cent of their shots come from the middle of the pitch. Underlining their no-frills approach play was that Sweden were ranked 30th in the group stage for short passes.
Sweden are high octane, decisive, as direct as possible through the middle of the pitch. Their three goals against a flailing Mexico all came from overloads in the box and from set pieces – creating panic in the Mexican area.
The Swiss play a very different style – much more circumspect in their approach. They sit deep in defence, and usually look to transition more patiently through their tiny talisman Xherdan Shaqiri. Shaqiri is Switzerland’s game manager; happy to run or jog with the ball at his left foot or look to slide passes to his forwards. Around Shaqiri is a sea of very talented technical players, including Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka whose exultant goal against Serbia was one of the hits of the tournament so far.
Unlike the Swedes, the Swiss build into attack and were 10th in the short passing stats. Where Switzerland is let down is their lack of frontline finishing, and they have relied on their brilliant midfield to produce the goals.
Sweden will be hoping to catch this Swiss team on the backfoot as often as possible, but the disciplined Swiss – who held out Brazil but for a brilliant long-range curler from Coutinho – will be alert to this.
In midfield, Switzerland has the strength and should be able to land a couple of killer blows.