England and Sweden face off in a tactically intriguing matchup at Kazan as they look to make their first semi final in decades.
England and Sweden face off in a tactically intriguing matchup at Kazan as they look to make their first semi final in decades. England’s youthful lineup has played to potential, showing tactical maturity and mental strength. The Swedes on the other hand started the tournament as massive underdogs but with a sense of togetherness and a never say die attitude, they've overcome the odds to reach the quarter finals.
Overcoming the heartbreak of a late equaliser and sustained spells of uneasiness in extra time, England prevailed in penalties. England will be disappointed that they failed to convert their chances in the first half against Colombia and will learn from those experiences against a dogged Sweden. Harry Kane, chief goal scorer and captain, was inspirational with his all round performance, as he dropped deep to create chances, made constant runs in the box, and scored the opener via a penalty. Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli also had impactful games, charging into space, and pressurising the defensively minded Colombian midfield. Defensively, Harry Maguire was the standout, assured in possession and astute positionally. Ashley Young in the left wing back position was surprisingly effective as he won freekicks in dangerous areas. Facing two banks of four in the final quarter of the pitch, Gareth Southgate will urge his attacking midfielders to occupy pockets of pace to neutralize the stoic Swedes. A win, can ensure the side will take another giant stride towards emulating the Championship winning feat from 1966 and take the Cup back home as their media likes to call it.
Jane Andersson's troops have overachieved with an unexpected quarter final berth. Filled with unheralded players such as Ludwig Augustinsson, Robin Olsen and Viktor Claesson and journeymen such as captain Andreas Granqvist, Marcus Berg, and Ola Toivonen, they possess only one bonafide star, the hardworking Red Bull Leipzig playmaker, Emil Forsberg. Sweden have compensated for the lack of superstars with their collective spirit, which is apparent in the manner they approach the game. They deploy a rigid 4-4-2 with hard working strikers and narrow wide players; banking on their wing backs to provide width. Their central defensive duo alongside the midfield pivot form a solid rectangle around the opposition midfielders and strikers, forcing teams to operate in a more direct manner via crosses. This direct approach, plays into Sweden’s hands considering their superiority in the air. Offensively, Sweden will look to break from counters, releasing the likes of wingback Augustinsson and winger Claesson into space, hoping that the hitherto misfiring strikers make use of their limited opportunities. Mikael Lustig, the solid right back will be missing the tie due to suspension and the young Bologna right back, Emil Krafth should replace him. With teams seldom coming back from losing situations in this edition of the World Cup. Lacking options from the bench, Sweden would aim to maximise their attacking strengths to establish the lead and control the game thereafter
Player to Watch
Ashley Young: With the suspension of the first choice Swedish right back, Mikael Lustig, Young has further opportunity to assert himself. Factoring in Sweden’s flat midfield, Young will be a beneficiary of the space created by Dele Alli in the left wing. Given space, his propensity to deliver diagonals and tricky dribbling maneuvers could befuddle the rigid Swedish formation.
Emil Forsberg: A star shaped in the image of his team, Forsberg embodies the virtues of tactical awareness, technical ability and defensive forbearance. Against a lopsided English midfield, Forsberg will be tasked to challenge the sole holding midfielder, Henderson, through dribbles and adept hold up play. During counters, Forsberg’s tendency to pull the trigger from distance could come in handy as well.
Pickford- Walker, Stones,Maguire- Henderson- Trippier, Lingard, Alli, Young- Kane, Sterling
Olsen- Krafth, Lindelöf, Granqvist, Augustinsson- Claesson, Svensson, Ekdal, Forsberg- Berg, Toivonen