Sweden vs England
Venue: Samara Arena
Kick off: 3pm
England are preparing for their biggest game in over a decade as they face Sweden in the World Cup quarter-final this afternoon.
England have not reached the last eight of the World Cup since 2006, where defeat by Portugal on penalties in Germany marked the start of a period of underachievement.
But Gareth Southgate’s side now have the country believing following their dramatic shootout win over Colombia in the last 16 in Moscow on Tuesday night; their first win on penalties in World Cup history.
Sweden stand in their way of a semi-final, but England’s record against the Swedes reads as just two victories in 15 games. Janne Andersson’s side beat Switzerland in the last 16, and are looking to reach the last four for the first time since 1994.
“We think they’re a very strong team,” Southgate told a pre-match press conference.
“I’ve been involved in matches against Sweden many times and always the team has a very strong identity, has better players than people sometimes give them credit for.
“This team is the same. You only have to look at their results – in the qualifying beating France, in the play-off beating Italy, in this tournament knocking out Germany.
“They are obviously a very strong side and one we will have to play really well against to beat them.”
Andersson said England had been his “second team” when watching the country’s domestic football while growing up, but said “this was not the same England” that had drawn accusations of a kick-and-rush style in the past.
“Football isn’t that simple. You can’t identify one single factor, you need to look at the overall picture,” the Sweden coach said.
“Many things must be right to beat a team like England.
“We need to get the defence right, we need to be courageous when we have possession. We have a clear idea of what we want to do in attack and we want to implement all of this.”
Sweden’s strengths will undoubtedly come from their defence, which has conceded only two goals in the whole tournament so far – the lowest of any of the remaining nations, with both coming in their 2-1 defeat to Germany in the group stages.
Sweden are the lowest scorers in the tournament too, having scored six goals in four games to date – and Andersson feels their predictability could prove an advantage.
“I think there was a coach who once said about their team that they’re quite easy to analyse but quite difficult to beat. I think that’s a right description for us.
“It shouldn’t be that difficult to get an idea of what we do – the surprise is probably that we’re terribly consistent. Whether or not you take us seriously and how they perceive it, that’s very difficult for me to say.
“We’re really strong in our beliefs and we really have been from the outset.”