We look at the two key battles that could have a major bearing on the outcome of the game when Sweden take on Switzerland in the round of 16.
Sweden and Switzerland will go head to head in an all-European round of 16 clash in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
Sweden finished as the unlikely winners in Group F, that also comprised of Mexico, Costa Rica and reigning champions Germany, following their 3-0 win over the Mexicans in the final group fixture last week. Switzerland, on the other hand, ended up as the runners-up in Group E, with five points from three games, after their 2-2 draw against Costa Rica.
With the two European nations set to meet for the first time in a major tournament, here we take a look at two key battles that could decide the outcome of the game.
Emil Forsberg vs Michael Lang
While he is yet to hit top gear in the World Cup, there is no question over the fact that Emil Forsberg is one of Sweden’s biggest threats going forward in the attacking third. The RB Leipzig attacking midfielder, who is deployed out on the left flank for the national team, is yet to score or assist in Russia.
The 26-year old is easily the most creative player in the Swedish squad and possesses the ability to open up defences with his passing. He can hit in accurate crosses into the box, while he can be devastating cutting inside from the wide areas as well, which make him such a dangerous proposition.
And Switzerland will be hoping that Michael Lang will be able to deal with the threat offered by Forsberg. The 27-year old defender is set to start his first game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup owing to captain Stephan Lichtsteiner’s suspension.
Given that he plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach, Forsberg will be somewhat of a familiar foe for the 26-time capped Swiss international and he will be hoping to use that experience of playing against him at club level to try and keep a lid on him on Tuesday.
Xherdan Shaqiri vs Ludwig Augustinsson
Another enticing battle in the making out on the wide areas, the contest between Switzerland’s speedster Xherdan Shaqiri and Sweden’s reliable left-back Ludwig Augustinsson will make up for an interesting watch at St. Petersburg.
Shaqiri, without a doubt, is the most naturally gifted player in this Switzerland squad. And while he hasn’t been able to showcase his complete array of abilities in the 21st edition of the World Cup yet, the 26-year old has provided glimpses of what he can do if he gets going.
Having scored the late winning goal against Serbia in the second group game, the reported Liverpool target also has an assist to his name in the tournament.
His blistering pace and the dribbling skills make him a potent threat going forward and Sweden will be hoping that Augustinsson will be up to the task to keep him at bay on Tuesday. The 24-year old left-back can be a handful while attacking and even scored a goal against Mexico last time out. But, his defensive side of the game will be in for a stern test in the upcoming game.
Despite having made his debut more than three years ago, Augustinsson has just 17 international appearances to his name and cannot claim to have the big game experience that will be needed heading into Tuesday’s encounter. And the pressure will be on him to ensure Shaqiri’s influence is completely nullified or his team could be in for a difficult night.