Gareth Southgate’s England broke a long jinx of failed penalty shoot-outs when they emerged winners over Colombia to enter the quarter finals for the 7th time in the World Cup. Apart from the 6-1 win over Panama who were easy meat, England showed glimpses of the talent they possess in the first half of the Colombia clash with Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Kieran Trippier showing great attacking intent. But goals were hard to come by and Kane’s spot kick was the lone redeemer of the day.
Against Sweden, Kane & co. will find the defense much harder to break down than they did against Colombia’s Sanchez and Mina. The Swedes have been rock solid at the back. Goal-keeper Robert Olsen has kept three clean sheets in the tournament so far. With the likes of Andreas Granqvist, Victor Lindelof and Ludwig Augustinsson in front of him, forming the back-line, it’s not difficult to see why Sweden have made it this far. The Scandinavian nation does not have names that conjure up fear. The likes of Ola Toivonen, Marcus Berg or Emil Forsberg were barely noticed in the Group stage but yet they are there in the Last Eight. The Swedes set a masterclass of both offense and defense to humble a cocky Mexico 3-0 and a hard fought 1-0 win over FIFA sixth-ranked Switzerland on their way to the quarter-finals.
The English will have to tighten up their back-line, for aside the Panama game where they were hardly tested they came under pressure in all other games. However, they can take solace from the fact that Swedish marksmen Oli Toivonen and Marcus Berg aren’t exactly firing in this World Cup, getting just a solitary goal between them till now. But they will have to watch out for RB Leipzig winger, Emil Forsberg, who had a big hand in the Round of 16 win over Switzerland.
The Three Lions will have to depend on the pace and movement of the likes of Sterling, Del Alli and Jesse Lingard to break up the wall-like Swedish defense. Harry Kane’s return of 6 goals from 3 appearances in the Cup holds looks promising going into the quarter-final clash. Kane’s odds to score anytime at 11/10 suggest a high probably of the striker finding the back of the net.
Sweden’s Janne Andersson will go with a defense-midfield heavy formation of 4-4-2 and will look to hit on the breaks with two strikers upfront. So far this has paid him rich dividends and it would be interesting to see how far it works at the Samara arena on Saturday.
Sweden’s best performance in the last few decades was in the WC 1994 USA where they managed an impressive third place. Apart from that, they haven’t been able to go beyond the Round of 16 in the only 2 Cups they qualified for after that, i.e. in 2002 and 2006. Both England and Sweden have met regularly at the international level playing 24 games between them – England have won eight, Sweden seven and nine have been draws. Odds favor the Three Lions to progress to the semi-finals.
Free Football Tips:
England to Win, Best Odds 10/11 Ladbrokes
Over 1.5 Goals, Best Odds 8/15 Ladbrokes
Kane to Score Anytime, Best Odds 11/10 Ladbrokes
Penalty Awarded YES, Best Odds 13/8 Ladbrokes