By Niall Clarke
- Sweden vs England preview
- The Three Lions continue their 2018 World Cup campaign on Saturday Afternoon
- Gareth Southgate’s are aiming for their first World Cup Semi Final since 1990
SAMARA, RUSSIA – England will be looking to book their place in the World Cup semi final for the first time since 1990 when they take on Sweden in the last eight on Saturday.
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It has been 28 years since the Three Lions have made the last four of the biggest tournament in World football. Italia ’90 is memorable for many reasons, not least Gazza’s tears and England’s heart-breaking defeat in that semi-final.
Since then England have not been able to get past the hurdle of the last eight, spawning a reputation of perennial quarter finalists. But this time England do not face a Brazil, Argentina or Germany. This time England go into a quarter final match as the favourites to progress to the last four.
It is weird to say that Colombia could be the best team England face on paper before the final, but that is the way the draw has shaped up. Gareth Southgate’s side came through the Colombians on penalties after a temper filled 1-1 draw. It was far from a great match, but England showed their grit, determination and mental strength to bounce back from a stoppage team equaliser to win their first penalty shootout in World Cup history.
On paper Sweden do not possess the talent of the Colombians, but they have been a bogey team of England in the past. The two nations have met 23 times in the past and share seven wins each with nine draws, the most recent match being a 4-2 victory for the Swedes in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an outrageous overhead kick.
England need not worry about Zlatan this time around, but that does not mean they should take Sweden at all lightly. This is a team without an individual star, but they make up for it in organisation and teamwork (It sounds way too similar to Iceland does it not?). The closest Sweden have to a star is Emil Forsberg who scored the only goal in Sweden’s 1-0 win over Switzerland. The Red Bull Leipzig midfielder is the most creative player in their team and a lot of attacks go through him, he is also capable of grabbing a goal or two.
The Swedes’ strength has come defensively where Andreas Granqvist has been a rock and a leader. This is the side that largely frustrated Germany and kept out a very good Mexican side. They are a well oiled machine that has enough quality to be dangerous going forward too, making this a tough match for the Three Lions
Jamie Vardy is a doubt for England after suffering a groin injury in England’s 1-1 draw with Colombia. The Leicester City striker is now facing a race against time to be fit for England’s quarter final match-up. There were slight concerns about Harry Kane, but the England captain has declared himself fit to face Sweden.
There are no suspensions for England but Kyle Walker, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jordan Henderson and Jesse Lingard are all on yellow cards and could miss England’s potential semi final match if they pick up a booking against Sweden.
Sweden welcome back Seb Larsson from suspension, but they will be missing defender Mikael Lustig who picked up his second yellow card against Switzerland. Otherwise Sweden should be able to line-up with a full strength side.
Do not expect a classic here. This will be a tight affair with not many chances being created as both sides lack creativity in midfield. England fans have a right to get excited because this is the best chance they have at winning the World Cup in a long time, but in truth the Three Lions have only beaten Panama and Tunisia in 90 minutes.
Sweden are a much better side than either of them two, and will be a tough team to break-down. They will likely sit back and let England have the ball In front of them, meaning it be difficult for the Three Lions to use their pace to get in behind the opposition defence.
Kane’s hold up play will be key to bringing in bodies from midfield, and England may have to force chances from the wings through the likes of Kieran Trippier. Set-pieces could be an avenue for England too as they have been very effective from corners and free-kicks in this tournament.
Strap yourself in for a nervy affair against Sweden as this game could be decided by one big chance or one mistake. I foresee a draw over 90 minutes, but this time England will avoid penalties with an extra time winner.
Prediction: England 1-0 Sweden AET
England face Sweden for a place in the FIFA World Cup semi finals on Saturday June 7th at 15:00 BST
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