England will be looking to make the semi finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990 when they take on Sweden in Samara on Saturday (3pm UK time).
After beating Colombia in dramatic fashion on Tuesday, England fans are starting to believe they can end a 52-year wait to win the World Cup. But Sweden stand in their way from a place in the semi final and they have a habit of defying the odds. Sweden earned their place in the quarter-finals with a resolute 1-0 victory over Switzerland, thanks to Emil Forsberg’s deflected shot.
Sweden’s road to the quarters- defying the odds
The Swedes were never really expected to make the World Cup from the moment their qualifying group was drawn. Most would have predicted France to win the group (which they did) and the Netherlands to finish 2nd after Sweden’s poor Euro 2016 campaign, however the Scandinavians edged out Holland to that second spot, meaning they went in to the playoff. They were then given the toughest draw possible in five time champions Italy, but the Swedes didn’t concede in both legs and defied the odds again to win 1-0 on aggregate thanks to Jonhansson’s first leg goal.
Their tight defence proved vital again in their first game in this World Cup as they edged out South Korea thanks to Granqvist’s penalty. But after their heart breaking 95th minute loss to 2014 champions, going through the group looked unlikely going in to the final match as they needed to beat Mexico to stand a realistic chance. Yet, they defied the odds again with a thumping 3-0 win not only putting hem through, but through as group winners.
In the Round of 16, Switzerland were the opponents but again Sweden’s defence made the difference as they edged out the Swiss 1-0. Forsberg’s 66th minute winner putting them in to the quarter finals for the first time since 1994. The Swedes will see no reason why they can’t defy the odds again against England and get themselves to the semi finals in what would be a sensational tournament for Sweden.
England’s road to the quarters- Late goals
Qualifying was a lot more simple for the Three Lions with late goals being the main theme. After starting their qualifying campaign with a 95th minute winner over Slovakia, England confirmed qualification with a 94th minute winner against Slovenia in the penultimate game. And even when it looked like England had completely blown a 0-1 lead to Scotland after conceding twice after the 87th minute, Harry Kane popped up to rescue the most dramatic of points with virtually the last kick of the game.
England carried over the late goal theme in to the World Cup after scoring a stoppage time winner to get their campaign off to the perfect start against Tunisia. The Three Lions then hammered Panama 6-1 to confirm qualification before defeat to Belgium meant they’d have to settle for 2nd.
England then had a taste of their own medicine when they conceded in stoppage time as Colombia drew level to take the Round of 16 tie to extra time. However, a dramatic, superb penalty shootout win confirmed England’s spot in the Quarter Finals.
Celtic right-back Mikael Lustig is suspended for Sweden due to receiving his second yellow card of the tournament against Switzerland. Emil Krafth is expected to replace him. However, midfielder Sebastian Larsson returns from suspension and is expected to come back into the side for Gustav Svensson.
England striker Jamie Vardy will be unavailable due to a groin strain he picked up against Colombia. Ashley Young should be available despite picking up a knock on his ankle during the last 16 match. While Kyle Walker has fully recovered from cramp and is available.
This game will no doubt be very tight and I can’t see it being too high scoring at all. It will come down to the finest margins I feel and the winner will be who handles the pressure of such a big match best. On paper, England are the better side but Sweden have been the underdogs so many times and sneaked a win. With that being said I feel if England get the first goal they’ll win this match which is what I think will happen.
Prediction: Sweden 0-1 England