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Sweden vs England
FIFA World Cup Quarter Final
|Samara Arena, Samara|
England have won through to the semi-finals of the World Cup with a 2-0 win over a disappointing Sweden.
It was a game that didn’t produce the quality of football to match its importance.
From the beginning England had the better of possession while the Swedes looked to counter, but neither side was able to fashion any good chances in the opening thirty minutes.
The first good set piece opportunity for the Three Lions – a corner – resulted in the first shot on target and indeed the first goal. Harry Maguire rose well to hit the cross with power past Olsson.
Normally goals open up the game, but the Swedes didn’t seem to have the imagination or cohesion to really trouble the England defence, and for the rest of the half and indeed the start of the second it was Raheem Sterling who looked the most threatening as counterattacking opportunities opened up.
However the Manchester City winger, who has struggled to find the net at international level, couldn’t quite put the game away from a number of decent chances.
It didn’t matter though, as England extended their lead in the 59th minute. After a period of pressure the Swedish defence was pulled out of shape, and Lingert in space directed a cross onto the head of the unmarked Delle Ali, and it was a straightforward finish from inside the six yard box.
The Swedes had no choice now but to attack in numbers. They had some reasonable attempts, with Berg and Claesson both denied by the in-form Jamie Pickford in England’s goal.
But in truth their chances were sparse. The English defence held up well in what was for the most part a dour and low tempo game.
England looked professional and comfortable mostly, but possibly a bit less dangerous up front than they’d like; the two goals were in fact their only shots on target for the match.
They now progress through to a semi final against the winner of Croatia and Russia. While this game won’t be remembered for much other than the result, Gareth Southgate will no doubt be glad for a straightforward win that won’t tax his players too greatly, and his team’s first clean sheet at this tournament.
The quarterfinals continue at the FIFA World Cup, as England play Sweden at the Samara Arena. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage from midnight (AEST).
As the big teams topple out of this World Cup two of Europe’s former powers start to believe.
England are former champions back in 1966, and Sweden former finalists in 1958. Both made semifinals in the 90s, but since then have been rather less successful at this tournament.
But as the draw appears to open up, it looks like the winner of this game will not only return to the penultimate round, but will have a real chance to claim the World Cup itself.
Certainly for the Three Lions, the cautious, quiet optimism that preceded this event seems to have grown into barely contained fervour.
Against the Swedes, they appear on paper to have the more talented lineup, but they face an opponent that plays unashamedly pragmatic football and has proven devilishly hard to score against.
Swedish manager Janne Anderson will be likely to ask his players to defend fairly deep to deny the English wingers a chance to get in behind, and look for Berg and Toivonen up front to make something happen, mostly on the counter.
Gareth Southgate’s men will be more inclined to use the width of the pitch, and will probably have the bulk of possession.
I wouldn’t expect them to be too concerned if the breakthrough doesn’t come, however, after they showed against Colombia they’re capable of winning on penalties.
We’d really love to see an early goal in this one, as I suspect otherwise it might take a while for either team to really try and force the issue. This could be a nervous, tense match without a lot of chances.
Sweden are impressive in defence and it wouldn’t surprise me if they could keep England scoreless in this one and pinch it at the other end.
However, England’s attacking talent and the quality of Harry Kane up front lead me to think that on balance they’ll break through at some stage and can probably protect a lead.
England 1, Sweden 0