England are set to be tested by Sweden in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, in a tie that will determine the fate of both teams for the rest of the tournament.
England have their minds firmly on the quarterfinal clash against Sweden as the Three Lions look to continue on their journey towards glory. But, in the Swedes, they face their toughest test yet in Russia. The winner of this tie will face either of Russia or Croatia in the semi-finals, as is the result of an unbalanced draw at the tournament.
England’s hopes were put to a stern test against Colombia in their Round-of-16 clash, which the Three Lions won via a penalty shootout, something they haven’t done before in their long history at the World Cup. Colombia were only moments away from clinging a quarterfinal spot, if not for Everton man Jordan Pickford to save Carlos Bacca’s spot-kick and create history.
Sweden, on the other hand, are in the quarterfinal thanks to a second-half goal from midfielder Emil Forsberg in their Round-of-16 clash against Switzerland. The goal was enough to seal their passage into the quarters, but against England they would want to believe they have a chance, considering their impressive record against the former champions.
Since both teams played as part of their qualifying campaign for the 1990 World Cup, England have only managed to beat Sweden once in the six encounters that followed, starting from the 1992 European Championships. Sweden have formed a cohesive unit since the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and it will be interesting to see how this unfolds.
Team News & Tactics
Sweden boss Janne Anderson has some issues in his squad ahead of the England game with injuries and suspensions loom to derail their progress. This could force Andersson to make few changes to the side that beat Switzerland, something that he would fear will disturb the squad’s cohesiveness against England.
Albin Ekdal has a foot problem and could be a doubt after x-rays were taken. Jimmy Durmaz did not start against the Swiss but has a hip problem which saw him miss training. Mikael Lustig is one player that is definitely out of the game following his second yellow card of the tournament against the Swiss.
On a more positive side, Victor Lindelof is set to continue at centre-back after there were doubts over his fitness as he was withdrawn at half-time against Switzerland in their round-of-16 clash. Sebastian Larsson is also back in the squad after being suspended for the last game.
Janne Andersson is likely to stick with the 4-4-2 formation that has worked out well for him in Russia and with Seb Larsson coming back in the side, Gustav Svensson could make way for the midfielder, but it also depends on Albin Ekdal’s availability, which means Svensson and Larsson could play together in the Swedish midfield.
Mikael Lustig’s suspension means, there will likely be a place in the starting lineup for Emil Krafth. Otherwise, the Swedish side will look similar to the one that featured against the Swiss including the coach retaining the formation.
Probable Starting-XI (4-4-2) – Olsen; Krafth, Lindelof, Granqvist, Augustinsson; Claesson, Larsson, Ekdal, Forsberg; Toinoven, Berg
Gareth Southgate has some tinkering to do with his team selection for the Sweden game, after the gruesome match against Colombia, which seems to have taken a toll on the fitness of some key players. On the other hand, many critical players are threading the suspension line, that could see them miss the semi-finals.
Jamie Vardy is the most important name on the doubtful list, after needing injections against Colombia, the very reason why he did not take a penalty in the shoot-out. The Colombia game also ensured that Ashley Young, Dele Alli, and Kyle Walker suffered knocks and it will be interesting to see if this is anything serious for Southgate.
On the other hand, Southgate has options to field fresh legs as players like Marcus Rashford, Ruben Loftus-cheek and Danny Rose are all waiting in the wings and have impressed enough to warrant a start against Sweden. Rose could be the most probable one, replacing Ashley Young, as Southgate will look to field a proper left-back than a makeshift one against the Swedes.
Shoot-out hero Jordan Pickford will undoubtedly continue between the posts, while Southgate will stick with his formula using three central defenders in Walker, Maguire and Stones. There could be a slight change in midfield as the doubtful Alli could be replaced by Loftus-Cheek. Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling are set to continue in their roles as will Golden Boot probable with six goals so far, Harry Kane.
Probable Starting-XI (3-5-2) – Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Loftus-Cheek, Henderson, Lingard, Rose; Sterling, Kane
- Sweden and England are meeting for the 25th time in their history with England winning eight times to Sweden’s seven.
- Having met only twice in World Cups, both those games ended in draws.
- Sweden could, however, become the third team to be beaten by England both at World Cups and European Championships after Germany and Switzerland.
- This would be Sweden’s fifth quarterfinal appearance at World Cups, while England are reaching this stage for the first tie since 2006
- Sweden have scored five out of their six goals in this tournament in the second half, while England’s Harry Kane if he scores could become their highest goalscorer in a single competition having already matched Gary Linekar’s six strikes from 1986.
Player to Watch
There are other worthy contenders who could outshine others. But, none so more than Harry Kane. Kane has had a splendid tournament so far, netting six times already and leading the golden boot race over other remaining contenders in Romelu Lukaku, Denis Chershev and France’s Kylian Mbappe.
He is England’s star man and their talisman, looking to lead the side to World Cup glory for the first time since 1966. A good performance against Sweden could ensure England’s place in the semi-finals of the tournament as well as pencil his name for a nomination for the Golden ball along with the Golden boot where he is already leading.
Sweden 1-2 England
Both these sides have shown a different character within themselves at the tournament, something that was not expected of them. Sweden were predicted to stumble in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while England being themselves, as always have received a raft of criticism. But they have shown they are capable, and both have a chance of progression.
Considering the quality of oppositions Sweden have faced so far in Russia, barring Germany, England are their biggest test till date, and although one can expect a goal or two from the Scandinavians, we tip England to pip them for a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-finals.