Sweden continued their dream run in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia as a hard-fought 1-0 victory over a lacklustre Switzerland side propelled them all the way to the quarter-final stage where they face England, who overcame Colombia on penalties. Emil Forsberg, who plays for Leipzig in Germany, scored the only goal which later proved to be the winner.
The game started at a brisk pace with Sweden carving a couple of clear chances in the opening five minutes, the most noticeable of which was a miss by forward Berg after being putting through on goal. Augustinsson missed yet another memorable opportunity as he blasted the ball far up the goal when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
As the first half progressed, Switzerland became more imposing and started to settle in the game. Behrami and Xhaka presented the forwards with a few half-chances but they were unable to capitalise. But perhaps the best chance of the first half fell to Sweden with goalkeeper Sommer yet again saving an audacious low volley from Berg.
As the half progressed, chances came to either side with Dzemaili blasting an effort narrowly past the goal and Berg yet again failing to score from a neat cross. The lively but goalless first half came to an end with both teams locked in a stalemate. Switzerland had considerably more possession in the first half but both teams had nearly equal number of shots.
The second half again began with Switzerland creating chances through the pace of Shaqiri. The teams traded half-chances until the 66th minute, when the breakthrough finally came in the form of Emil Forsberg, albeit in a comical fashion. After trading passes in midfield, the ball fell to Forsberg who beat one defender and lashed an effort towards goal. Unfortunately for the Swiss, the ball took a huge deflection off defender Manuel Akanji and sailed past the helpless Sommer into the net.
Switzerland fought hard for a way back into the match and chances did come their way, mostly to Shaqiri and striker Seferovic, but the Swedish defence was equal to the task and finished the match with a clean sheet. There was late drama to come with Michael Lang of Switzerland getting a red-card for a last-ditch tackle on Martin Ollson close to his penalty area. The referee consulted the VAR and gave a free-kick in a dangerous position to Sweden but striker Toivonen blasted it wide. Sweden finally found themselves in a World Cup quarter-final after 24 years of waiting.
Sweden started with a 4-4-2 formation with Svensson replacing the suspended Larsson. Like their first three group matches, Sweden were happy to sit back in their own half and invite pressure from their opponents and hit them on the counter. Lindelof and Granqvist were solid in defence while goalkeeper Olsen produced some good saves to ensure a clean sheet. In attack, wingers Forsberg and Claesson were often seen drifting into the centre and trying to get a shot on goal. Striker Marcus Berg missed several key opportunities, as did his compatriot Toivonen.
Switzerland started with their tested 4-2-3-1 formation and played a possession-based game. They passed the ball around in midfield looking for an opening but the compact Swedish defence made such openings hard to come by. They did open up the Swedes on a few occasions, winger Xherdan Shaqiri being in the thick of the action, but were let down by some woeful finishing in the box. Striker Breel Embolo came in in the 73rd minute but was unable to find the much-needed equaliser and the Swiss crashed out in the last-16 stage.
Writer’s Man of the Match: Andreas Granqvist