Russia 2018: England prove worth against gritty Swedes

World Cup 2018 By: Ayodeji Tunde | 08/07/2018

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While many keep suggesting that the Three Lions of England got an easy route to the Semi-Finals having dispatched Sweden 2-0 in Saturday’s quarterfinal duel,  the records, and antecedence of the Swedes suggest otherwise.

Though not seen as superpowers in Europe, the current Swedish team have players that can do enough to grind out results and even though things do not go their way in the quarter It is not a function of not being good enough.

Qualifying for the World Cup was not gotten on a platter of gold, the Swedes had to do the unthinkable; denying four-time champions, Italy from qualifying for the Mundial for the first time in over three decades.

 Before their heroics in the playoffs, the Swedes got the better of Holland and France in qualifiers; results that testify to their quality.

At the World Cup proper, Sweden thumped Mexico and Korea while also frightening Germany.

In fairness, one area where Sweden held a statistical advantage was shots on target, 3 to 2. But on each attempt, England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford came out best.

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Pickford made a terrific save just after half-time from Marcus Berg header and with 20 minutes left it was Pickford again, this time tipping a rising Berg shot over the bar.

For Berg, it was more of the same - many chances at this World Cup but not a goal to show for it.

In between Pickford thwarting Berg, he also pulled off an important stop on midfielder Viktor Claesson.

At halftime, Sweden had only been trailing at this World Cup for a matter of 15 minutes and a few seconds - the few seconds the difference between Toni Kroos' winning goal in the second match and the referee blowing for full-time.

Maguire's goal after half-an-hour put Sweden into foreign territory and it was clear that they simply did not have the creativity and offensive weapons to recover.

Guidetti, a player with an eye for a goal, came into the game after 65 minutes but did not make an impact. As part of that double substitution, Sweden withdrew Emil Forsberg, the most creative player amongst a throng of journeymen.

 The only thing Sweden had left was desperation and although they did manage to manufacture a couple of good chances it was more a case of hit or miss rather than part of a well thought out approach to put England under pressure for a sustained period of time.