FIFA 2018 World Cup: England vs Sweden, Combined XI
FIFA 2018 World Cup: England vs Sweden, Combined XI
Come Saturday, England and Sweden will resume their glorious rivalry after a gap of 6 years. The last time the sides met, the Three Lions were torn apart by an imperious Zlatan Ibrahimovic who scored all 4 goals in the 4-2 drubbing. But the towering Swede is now out of the picture and the Blagult have come a long way post his retirement.
England (25/1 favourites to win the World Cup) on the other hand, are raising expectations again. With several top shouts biting the dust in Russia, the Three Lions are thriving in the underdog tag, reaching their first quarter-final in 12 years, and would be buoyed after the recent victory over Colombia.
England and Sweden (150/1 outsiders to win the World Cup) have met in five international tournaments before, but both their World Cup meetings – 2002 and 2006 – have ended even stevens. But given the path these sides have traversed to reach here, this one promises to be a crackerjack.
There are several talented names in both camps, but let’s commingle the best ones in a single XI:
Goalkeeper: Robin Olsen
Curiously, Jordan Pickford is yet to keep a clean-sheet for England in this competition, while Olsen has registered three, most recently in the victory over Switzerland. The Swiss barely threatened, but he commanded his area with authority, charging out of his area to either punch clear the corners, or catch hold of it. Olsen has made 11 saves so far with a success rate of almost 85%.
Right-back: Kevin Trippier
Having made his mark with Spurs last season with a stellar campaign, Trippier is now growing in stature with England too. He’s been pushed upfield as a wide midfielder by Southgate, and that has unlocked the offensive side of his game. His 4 key passes are the highest in the team by a mile, whilst he’s also assumed set-piece responsibilities, assisting John Stones from a corner in the 6-1 drubbing of Panama. He also scored the shootout against Colombia.
Centre-back: John Stones
England have conceded one goal in each of the four games so far, but John Stones has tried his best with 3.8 average clearances in each game, despite playing only 45 minutes in the last group game against Belgium. He struck twice against Panama and also laid the most accurate passes than anyone in their last 16 clash with 78.
Centre-back: Andreas Granqvist
Besides Stones, Granqvist is the only other defender with 2 goals in this World Cup, and both have come from the penalty spot. He won both each of them himself and dispatched it aplomb. A rugged presence at the back as the Blagult have kept 3 cleansheets in 4 games, Granqvist has also proved to be so incredible in breaking opposition’s attacking play, making 6 clearances and 2 blocks. The Swedish captain has been the force to drive his side ahead and Harry Kane’s growing numbers in goal might run into a stonewall when he goes up against him.
Left-back: Ludwig Augustinsson
It has been somewhat of a start-stop World Cup campaign for Augustinsson, maintaining a modest 68% passing accuracy and not overlapping in the attack enough. He’s seen pinned at the back for large spells, but did break forward to score against Mexico in what remains his best game so far.
Right attacking midfielder: Viktor Claesson
Sweden’s attack so far have stemmed from various positions, primarily this one where Claesson operates from. He has grown in stature under Andersson since he took after the Euro 2016 debacle, and is now pulling up trees in Russia. He has two assists to his credit and also two key passes, the highest by a Swedish, and both of which came in the 1-0 win over Switzerland. Claesson’s all-round game shows he’s been tremendous at the back too, winning 4 tackles, making 3 blocks whilst also registering 22 ball recoveries.
Left-attacking midfielder: Emil Forsberg
The World Cup was turning out to be a frustrating campaign for Forsberg, who attempted 11 shots at goal without fruition – the most by a player without getting on the scoresheet. But finally liberated himself at the 12th time of asking when he struck the winner against Switzerland. The goal might just be he tonic he needs to start firing against England in the quarterfinals.
Central midfielder: Jesse Lingard
Lingard capped off his best ever season with Manchester United before coming to Russia, but things haven’t been as rosy here. He had the least touches on the ball in the Colombia game and the two efforts he made were rather futile. Lingard has looked subdued for the better part of the campaign and the curling effort against Panama remains his best piece of business by far.
Central midfielder: Dele Alli
Last season where Alli’s scoring output plummeted to almost half, we got to see a more creative side of his game, laying off more assists than ever whilst also dropping deep to win back the ball. In Russia, we’ve seen neither as Alli has been a mere passenger in this campaign, with no goals or assists to show for his efforts. He needs to bring his A-1 game to the fore sooner than later as the World Cup is fast approaching the business end and England could do a lot with the same in what’s turning out to be a memorable campaign.
Forward: Ola Toivonen
Sweden’s attack may not have been as formidable as it was during the qualifiers, especially given the subpar form of striker Marcus Berg, Toivonen has somewhat made his presence felt upfront by taking the game to defenders and attempting 4 shots, three of which have been on target. He scored in the 2-1 defeat to Germany and also assisted Forsberg to score the lone goal against Switzerland in the last 16 tie.
Forward: Harry Kane
Coming off the back of his most successful Premier League campaign, Kane continued in the same vein in Russia, scoring 6 times to lead the Golden Boot race. The Tottenham ace didn’t play against Belgium, but has scored in the other three games that he’s participated in. His penalty record in the competition is something that would put even Messi and Ronaldo to shame. He’s struck thrice from the spot and also in the shootout win over Colombia. As long as Kane continues to fire, the Three Lions are in a good stead to make it to the finals.