FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 – Sweden vs England PREVIEW
A match between one of the best underdog stories of the tournament in Sweden and a rejuvenated football nation in England. Sweden have already eliminated some of the best nations in the world on their way to the world cup and in the world cup and have shown to be playing their best football in over two decades. Meanwhile, England have reached their first quarter final since 06 and a nation who have suffered from many heart breaks are starting to truly believe. Will, Sweden knock off another big nation, or will England reach their first world cup Semi Final since 1990?
A team who have pretty much been the underdogs ever since the qualifying campaign started. Sweden so far not only beat Netherlands to a playoff spot, beat Italy in the playoffs to qualify, but continued their great run here in Russia by topping a group that Germany got eliminated from and then eliminated a good Switzerland side in the R16. It’s been a fantastic ride by the Sweden and ironically enough this has happened ever since one of their greatest ever players Ibrahimovic retired. In this tournament Sweden have already picked up some great results, beating some good teams on their way. During this tournament, Sweden topped the group that involved Mexico, Germany and South Korea. They started off with a 1-0 win against Korea, then lost 2-1 to Germany to a last minute goal which put Sweden in a situation where many thought they wouldn’t get out of. However, Sweden beat the at the time high flying Mexico 3-0 to not only qualify to R16, but also a result that helped them top the group. In R16 as mentioned they beat Switzerland 1-0 thanks to a deflection. Sweden haven’t done this because they have amazing quality in their team. They’ve done this by having great team unity like most scandinavian teams, gritty play and hard work. Sweden have shown to be an incredibly tough team to break down and have taken their chances whenever they got them. Sweden’s backline has been very good, especially Granqvist who has been their best player overall, not only has he been a tank at the back but he’s scored a couple of huge penalties in this tournament for Sweden. Sweden’s lack of clinical strikers have been a weakness, but it hasn’t really cost Sweden because they’ve still managed to score 6 in 4 although some of those goals have been deflections and there was two penalties, but that just shows that Sweden love to put in a ball in the box where things like fouls and deflections can happen and that’s how they’ve got their goals. They’re a tough physical side who are playing without any pressure, this team is no pushover.
This world cup has truly rejuvenated the hopes of English football for England fans. England have won their first knockout major tournament game since 2006 and reached their first world cup quarter final since the same 2006. England have also won their first penalty shootout at the world cup which tells us that they overcome a massive mental test. England fans are starting to truly believe that this world cup could be theirs and the 52 year run of no major titles could end. Now let’s have a look at England’s run at the tournament. England finished second in their group with 2W 1L beating Tunisia 2-1, Panama 6-1 and losing to Belgium 0-1 (both teams used their B teams because everything was settled). This meant England would play Colombia in R16 and boy did they get tested. England took a lead and kept it until the 93rd minute and it looked like they’d cross the finish line. However a corner that connected with Mina’s head led to a goal and Colombia forced an extra time, then penalties. England even trailed in the penalty shootout, but a miss and a huge save from Pickford turned everything around and Eric Dier then scored the winning pen giving England their first ever world cup penalty shootout win overcoming the ghosts of penalty shootouts from the past. It was a massive mental breaker for England to not only win a knockout game, but also do it in a way in which they’ve never done so before (Penalty shootout).
Throughout the tournament, Harry Kane has been England’s main talisman already totalling 6 goals, leading the golden boot race by two. Furthermore, England’s backline has gotten better game by game, we’re seeing England defend better as games go by, against Colombia they put in a very solid defensive performance with Harry Maguire really being the standout and now of course England can be confident about Jordan Pickford in goal after that performance against Colombia, that was a huge confidence booster for him. In terms of disappointing players you’d have to say Raheem Sterling has not performed to his full capabilities and Dele Alli hasn’t been able to stay healthy limiting his playing time, but other than that, England’s team have been good. They’ve overcome every mental test so far and the only problem that you’d have with them is they are still quite young and the expectations are starting to rise, so you would have to worry whether these expectations end up being too high for this England team.
Let’s begin with Sweden. Sweden are a defensive side, they like to keep men behind the ball and they to hurt teams with counter attacks and long balls. As mentioned, Sweden playing direct football has been effective because it has caused deflections, penalties which led them to scoring goals that put them here. Sweden like to frustrate opponents with their top defending, we’ve already seen Mexico and Switzerland get really frustrated and shut down in this tournament by Sweden. Now the test gets tougher with England, but let’s be fair Sweden have already taken out Netherlands, Italy and nearly shut out Germany so they know what it means to play a team this good. In terms of suspensions, Lustig will be out for the game and will most likely get replaced by Krafth at RB position, meanwhile Sebastian Larsson is back in the lineup after missing the last game which is great for Sweden because he’s been very good in this tournament and is a useful creative player. The keys for Sweden is just keep frustrating England, don’t let them score early and maybe eventually they can get a little bit of luck going forward again with a deflection or a penalty or maybe someone will provide a bit of magic and score a great goal. They don’t have the talent England have, but their team unity is one of the best and that’s how they can win. By working hard as a team like they’ve done all tournament long.
England are a rare team in this tournament that actually made 3 at the back work. England like to play attacking style of football and this is what we’re going to see from them in this quarter final. Because Sweden will sit back, England will control most possession and will try to break the stubborn Swedish defence. England have shown really good football, their attacking players, especially Lingard, Sterling tend to be running around constantly which is tough to defend because that means opposition have to chase them around non stop and it lets the ball move around more freely with the defence more spread out. If England players show the type of pace and movement up front like they’ve done throughout this tournament then it will cause the Swedes a lot of problems. In terms of team news, Ashley Young and Dele Alli picked up knocks in the last game, but they are still in contention to play in this match. If neither can play then Danny Rose will fill in at LB, while Dele Alli will either get replaced by Eric Dier or Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Jamie Vardy is most likely out of this game as a whole due to an injury, he won’t even be able to be used as a sub. The keys for England is to not allow the lack of experience on this stage get to them, they can’t allow themselves to get carried away by physical play from Sweden because it did look like Colombians were getting into England players heads at times and that can’t happen. England must be patient, keep moving the ball around and player movement has to be consistent to spread the Sweden’s defence out more. If they do all of that, eventually something will open up and with the form that England’s striker Kane is in, you wouldn’t bet against him.
This is actually a very tough game to predict. Because on one hand you have England who are clearly more talented, but then you have Sweden who are insanely tough to break down and their team unity is unbelievable, plus they’ve as mentioned already eliminated some of the big boys before the tournament even started. We think this game will be a true dog fight, it will get intense and physical. We’re going to give England the edge over Sweden however because England have a lot of pace going forward and Kane is on incredible run right now and all of that should be able to cause Sweden problems, and losing Lustig could come out as a huge because he’s been very important in that back 4. We think that England’s pace alongside clinical finishing by Kane will be the key in this game which is something Sweden lacks and England will pick up a 1-0/2-0 win. We’ve seen a lot of classics between these two nations in the years past, but can’t expect this to turn out into a goalfest like it did in 2006 and 2012. England should be able to reach their first world cup Semi Final in 28 years.
ODDS – Decimal
Sweden Win (90 mins) – 4.80
Draw (90 mins) – 3.30
England Win (90 mins) – 1.95
To Qualify – Sweden 3.00 – England 1.40
KICK OFF – 7th July 2018 – 3pm UK Time