FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from Sweden vs England, 0-2

FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from Sweden vs England, 0-2

by Sajeesh Soman / 9 months ago

FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from Sweden vs England, 0-2


England are through to their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years as Harry Maguire and Dele Alli scored in either halves to end Sweden’s fairytale run.


The Blagult once again came a cropper in the attack, but their best spells were thwarted each time by the brilliance of Jordan Pickford, who successfully got his first clean sheet of the tournament.


The Three Lions are now just a win away from the first finals in 52 years, but either of Russia or Croatia would bump in their way in the semis on Wednesday.


The major takeaways from the clash in Samara:


#1 Another England set-piece mastery


Coming into Russia, this England side were good in more ways than one. But their new found set-piece specialty during the warm-ups was a key weapon in the arsenal. Five games in the tournament, and it’s suffice to say the Three Lions have used it to devastating extent. They were the most lethal side from such situations, scoring 4 times until this point, before Harry Maguire made it five with yet another header.


Ashley Young floated a corner into the box and the Leicester City defender rose high enough to beat his marker and break the deadlock. Coincidentally, that was Maguire’s first international goal. But from a bigger perspective, England once again exercised their set-piece dominance.


Only two games now separate the side from only their second World Cup crown, and this set-piece expertise can play a big role in realising that elusive dream.


#2 Pickford deservedly picks up his first clean sheet


England shotstopper Jordan Pickford has been amazing between the sticks in this competition, making 10 saves out of 13 shots he’s faced. But he was yet to keep a clean sheet. Today, at last, he broke the duck to get his first, and he thoroughly deserved it after what was a truly incredible performance.


He wasn’t a busy man as Sweden rarely threatened and only had three shots at goal. But Pickford was on hand to deny each of them and frustrate the Blagult. Marcus Berg latched on to a corner by heading the ball low, but the Everton shotstopper parried it away with his palms. He repeated the trick later on in the game when Viktor Claesson came close this time, trying a shot from just 10 yards and produced his best moment of skill in the game.


Pickford’s last piece of action came when he punched another Berg effort over the bar, as Sweden just couldn’t find a way past him.


Another fine performance from the under-rated goalkeeper and this time, finally, it ended in a clean sheet. And deservedly so.


#3 Sterling fluffs his lines again


While Pickford had a field day in goal, up ahead Raheem Sterling endured another frustrating outing. The Manchester City star was a recipient of two glorious chances, but disappointed each time. He was put through on goal in the first-half, though marginally offside, but his effort failed to trouble Robin Olsen, who blocked it without hassle. But Sterling really could’ve done better with the second.


Once again, he was released clean through and showed tremendous burst of pace to run into the box. However, he then hesitated, taking a second too long to decide whether to pass

(which he should’ve as Kane, and Alli behind him, were in shooting positions) or to take crack at it himself. And when he eventually did it, Swedish defenders surrounded him and thwarted his attempt to force a corner.


Sterling has had a frustrating campaign in Russia so far, without a single goal or an assist in 5 games. He’s made 7 attempts at goal, but only one so far has been on target, whilst also losing the ball 21 times.


After what was a stellar campaign with the Skyblues last term, the World Cup has turned out to be the perfect anti-climax of it. And there’s nothing Sterling has been able to do about it.


#4 England finally hit the right notes in the attack


One of the issues with England from open play was the lack of fluidity and fluency in the attack. They supposedly had their tasks cut out against a well-drilled and organised Swedish side that threw 10 men behind the ball and maintained two compact defensive banks of four. The Blagult even tried to block all passing lanes. But England responded with precision and some really good work from open play.


Whilst the first goal was stemmed out of a corner, the second one was beautifully worked from open play. Kevin Trippier and Jesse Lingard’s nimble one-twos on the right flank saw the Manchester United star send in a delicious cross in the box that Ali sneakily got past the Swedish defense to head home from close range and make it 2-0.


After a cagey opening exchanges, the Three Lions steadily grew into the match and the second strike was the apotheosis of it.


#5 Is it really coming home?


England weren’t exactly the favourites coming into Russia and were placed at 33/1 odds. But with usual suspects Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Spain all biting the dust, the path has cleared for the Three Lions to sneak into and go the distance. They still have two more games, including an all-important semi-final against Croatia most likely, but the British side is truly beginning to think this just might be their year. Football’s really coming home.


The third youngest side in the competition, England boast several Premier League talents and even though not all of them have fired, Southgate’s version of England is more team-oriented and functions as a cohesive unit, led by the inimitable Harry Kane. This team has delivered England’s best run at the World Cups since 1990, and they’re not done yet.


France and Belgium, who play the first semi-final on Tuesday, are now the clear favourites with the winner expected to clinch the showpiece in Moscow next week. But England are no half-shabby and have a fair chance to actually go all the way.


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