Sweden and Switzerland played out the quite tactical affair we all thought they would. Just instead of ending in a 0-0 draw and penalties, Sweden got the goal they needed to send them to the World Cup Quarterfinals.
Sweden Outlast Switzerland
The First Half
Unfortunately for everyone involved, a game we thought would be boring and tactical turned out to be so. These are two teams who play very similarly. They get men behind the ball and they defend in numbers. The Swiss at least try and keep the ball, but they don’t have the ball players or playmakers to do real damage to the stout Swedish defence.
But that is not a small task. This Swedish defence is organised and tactical. Ask the Netherlands, who they beat in the qualifying group, or Italy who they beat in a play-off; or Germany, who they locked down for almost 90 minutes until that Toni Kroos magic. They’ve brought that defence everywhere they went and this knockout game was no different.
St,ill both teams had their chances in the first half. Marcus Berg had a few ugly shots for Sweden. Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri put in some good balls that just missed their target. Granit Xhaka put a shot over the bar shortly before Berg forced a great save from Swiss keeper Yann Sommer. But we went into the half without any score.
The Second Half
The second half started much like the first. Both teams were creating half chances, nothing so serious that anyone would expect them to score. In the 66th minute, Emil Forsberg received the ball at the top of the box and got by Xhaka to unleash a shot straight down the middle. Swiss defender Manuel Akanji was there to clear it; but miss-hit it into his own net, 1-0 Sweden.
From then on Sweden began to fall deeper in their defensive block; they had their goal, now it was time to preserve their win. The Swiss took control of the ball, as one would naturally expect. They began to lay siege on the Swedish defense, with Sweden only getting a few chances to attack or create a second.
The Swiss made changes. They brought on forwards Breel Embolo and Haris Seferovic. From there, they continued to probe but could not seem to find a way through. Sweden had held out perfectly, only a last second penalty/red card/VAR controversy was left to keep the game going. The penalty turned into a free kick at the edge of the box following the VAR review, and a red card for Michael Lang.
And finally, we were all free. The game is over and Sweden have punched their ticket to the quarter-final. It is a massive accomplishment for Sweden, and something they never even sniffed during their years with Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the line.
Now they must take on the winner of England and Colombia, and before all you English readers get ahead of yourselves, remember this. Sweden have beaten Holland, Italy, Germany and Switzerland on their way to this point. Those are four tough teams, Sweden are ready for anything. Don’t be surprised if they’re playing for a shot at the World Cup Final.