England convincingly and comfortably defeated Sweden 2-0 in a faced paced and dramatic quarterfinal clash. Harry Maguire and Dele Alli headed home two fantastic goals for England, but it will be Jordan Pickford who made three incredible and world-class saves to see England in their first World Cup semi-final since 1990.
England controlled the passing within the first 10 minutes, with most of their possession coming in the middle of the pitch, with Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli distributing the ball.
Emil Krafht, who was brought into to replace Lustig who was serving a suspension, lost the ball to Alli. Alli then tried to find his fellow Tottenham team mate, Harry Kane, but the England skipper was beaten by the Swedish Goalkeeper, Robin Olsen, to the ball. Sweden responded five minutes later, Viktor Claesson blasted the ball towards Jordan Pickford’s net with awkward looking shot, but it flew over the top of the crossbar.
Every time England tried to break forward with pace with Raheem Sterling, Kirean Tripper and Ashley Young, Sweden’s defence of Victor Lindelöf and Andreas Granqvist used their strength and teamwork to break down the attack. England had a good chance in the 18th minute, when Sterling broke forward, but as he was pulled away by the defence, Kane took the shot on his first touch, but narrowly hit the ball wide.
After that, ‘The Three Lions’ did not take their foot off the gas, with several attacks with Jesse Lingard, Tripper and Sterling trying to launched balls into the area. However, the ever alert Swedish defence, who at this point had kept 3 clean sheets and only conceded two goals at this World Cup, made short work of England.
The first goal came from another England set piece, when Ashley Young launched a high ball far into the area, and Leicester City’s, Harry Maguire, in only his 10th England appearance, headed the ball down and past the reach of Olsen. The crowd erupted, the fans were booming and football indeed seemed to be on its way home.
England then pressed forward, with Sterling’s pace proving to be a massive problem for Sweden, who could not catch him, he crossed the ball towards Lingard, but the Manchester United attacking midfielder was unable to convert a chance. Sterling then had a chance of his own as Tripper again sent a long pass into the area, but Sterling could not control it. He again had another good chance created by Jordan Henderson but tried to control it and was put under pressure by the keeper and missed both that chance and the follow up when the former Wigan Athletic defender, Granqvist, blocked the second chance.
Sweden came at England in the second half very quickly, when Marcus Burg headed brilliantly towards goal, but was saved brilliantly by Pickford, picking up where he left off against Columbia. After that, Sweden kept trying to break in behind the defence, a totally different battle plan than earlier in the game, when they sat back on the defence. England followed up with their own chance as Maguire leaped up to head the ball across the six-yard area, but Sterling tried an acrobatic finish, which came off his shin and miscued the shot.
Both teams kept trading chances during the middle of the second half, but it was England who took theirs brilliantly, through a Jesse Lingard cross which found Dele Alli, and the former MK Don’s midfielder buried his own header past Olsen to secure his first World Cup goal and made sure that England could keep a firm grip on the match.
England looked confident as ever, but Jordan Pickford had to stay alert. Sweden broke through the defence, and with some well-timed passing, Berg sent the ball through to Claesson, but the Everton number one got low again to still remain a hero for the ‘Three Lions.’
Harry Maguire almost secured his second goal of the match, when England won another corner, but his volley was blasted into the stands. Pickford was again called into question, when Berg hit a left footed volley inside the area, with just fingertips to the ball, he managed to get it over the crossbar. Sterling got forward once again towards the end, finding Fabien Delph, who’s wife gave birth to their third child two days ago, but after some miscommunication, the ball ended up going out of play.
Has it come home yet? What next for England?
If there ever was a time for England to win a World Cup, this is it. With Brazil being knocked out by Belgium in last nights match, and a semi final clash with either Croatia or the hosts Russia, Football could realistically be finally coming home in 52 years. Everything seems to be going their way, with Jordan Pickford showing why Gareth Southgate chose him over Nick Pope and Jack Butland, to Harry Kane motivating every player in the team to perform to their highest level. Yes, there are some faults with the team, with Raheem Sterling’s lack of finishing letting down his performances and some shaky performances at the back have allowed teams to get in behind the defence. However, this is one of the best England sides this country has ever seen, and now we shall see if they can bring it home once again.
As for Sweden, they should be proud of what they accomplished in this World Cup. This is their first major tournament since the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimović, they have gone above and beyond their expectation. If they carry on with this style of teamwork and defensive play, they could be a force to be reckoned with in the next few years to come.