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Forsberg strike sends Sweden into last eight
July 4, 2018, 12:14 am

Sweden will play either England or Colombia in the quarter-finals of the World Cup after defeating Switzerland in a strangely compelling but untidy tie in St Petersburg.

Emil Forsberg struck the decisive blow midway through the second half with a shot that deflected off the luckless Manuel Akanji and left Yann Sommer stranded in the Swiss goal.

Sommer had brilliantly clawed away a shot on the turn from Marcus Berg in the first half and denied Haris Seferovic late on but it was undoubtedly a game that was more about missed opportunities than good saves.

Both sides were guilty of squandering good openings - and Switzerland ended it with 10 men after Michael Lang was dismissed in injury time for a push on Martin Olsson, who was clean through on goal.

The referee initially gave a penalty but changed his decision to a free-kick after a review.

That will not bother the Swedes, who have reached the last eight of this competition for the first time since 1994.

Miss after miss after miss after miss

The bottom half of the draw at the World Cup offers a superb opportunity for a relatively unfancied team to reach the final.

Going into Tuesday's two remaining last-16 ties, one of Switzerland, Sweden, England, Colombia, Croatia and Russia was certain of reaching the final. Of these, only the Swiss are in the top 10 of Fifa's rankings.

And while the match in St Petersburg could not be said to lack passion or goalmouth incidents, the quality of finishing gave the impression that neither side was capable of taking the glorious opportunity in front of them.

The worst miss was by Sweden's Albin Ekdal, who was superbly picked out by Mikael Lustig's beautifully weighted cross but horribly ballooned his strike well wide. A header would have been a much better option.

Striker Marcus Berg snatched a shot off target too after Ola Toivonen's deft flick created the opening and had another effort blocked.

But it was not just the Swedes who were guilty of profligacy in front of goal.

Steven Zuber was off target with a near-post header and later exchanged a series of passes with Blerim Dzemaili, who had a great opening from 16 yards but again showed a lack of composure that let the game down at key moments.

Graphic on shots

There were 30 shots from Sweden and Switzerland but only seven on target in total

Obdurate Swedes triumph once more

Sweden finished ahead of the Netherlands in their qualifying group and then defeated Italy in a play-off tie to reach the World Cup. Once here they finished top of a group that included champions Germany.

Underestimate them at your peril.

They averaged 38% possession in the group stage and just 33% against the Swiss, but they probably created more good scoring chances than their opponents.

They were organised and obdurate, playing with a discipline that allowed them to frustrate the Swiss and try to strike on the counter.

They have a team that lacks star quality in the post-Zlatan Ibrahimovic era but they know what they are good at - and how to win football matches.

And when at the end the Swiss pressed for an equaliser, Forsberg cleared from close to his goal and several team-mates put in desperate blocks as they showed that they will provide a difficult test for anyone who wants to stop them reaching the final.

Swiss regret

It was an afternoon laced with regret for a Switzerland side that struggled to wear down their disciplined opponents.

Vladimir Petkovic's team had lost just one of their last 25 games and come through a group stage in Russia that included Brazil and Serbia.

And having not reached the last eight at the World Cup for 64 years, Switzerland were favourites to win a tie against supposedly limited opponents.

But their timing was off when it mattered most - perhaps epitomised most by one completely miscued strike from Granit Xhaka after Xherdan Shaqiri had played the ball invitingly into his path on the hour mark.

And even when substitute Haris Seferovic did guide a header towards goal he was denied by a good save from Robin Olsen.

Man of the match - Andreas Granqvist (Sweden)

Man of the match is Sweden Andreas Granqvist
It seems to wrong to single out an individual when victory was the consequence of a strong team dynamic but central defender and skipper Andreas Granqvist epitomised all that was good about his team. Tough, focused, committed.

Leaving it late - the best of the stats

  • Sweden have qualified for their first World Cup quarter-final since 1994.
  • Switzerland have never won a World Cup knockout match - suffering elimination in all seven matches, including their last four last-16 games (in 1994, 2006, 2014 and 2018).
  • Sweden have won back-to-back World Cup matches for the first time since 1958, when they won the quarter-final and semi-final on their way to the final as host nation that year.
  • This was only Switzerland's fourth defeat in their last 15 matches at the last four World Cup tournaments, with three of those defeats coming by a 1-0 scoreline.
  • This defeat was Switzerland's first since October 2017 when they lost 2-0 to Portugal in a World Cup qualifier, ending a run of nine unbeaten matches.
  • Sweden kept their third clean sheet in four games at the 2018 World Cup - as many shutouts as they'd recorded in their previous 24 matches combined at the World Cup finals.
  • Forsberg scored his first World Cup goal for Sweden with his 14th shot of the tournament.
  • Eight of Sweden's last nine World Cup goals have been scored in the second half of matches.
  • Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen has kept three clean sheets at the 2018 World Cup, a joint-record for a Swedish goalkeeper in World Cup finals history (also three clean sheets for Ronnie Hellstrom in 1974 and Karl Svensson in 1958).
  • Berg attempted three shots in this match and has now had 13 shots without scoring at the 2018 World Cup, more than any other player.
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