FIFA World Cup 2018: 5 Reasons why England won against Sweden:

After 28 long years of waiting, England have finally qualified to the last-four of the World Cup. Against a very resilient and defensively solid Swedish side, England churned out their victory by maintaining a certain level of assurance and authority over the proceedings of the game. Harry Maguire opened the scoring with a thumping header from Ashley Young’s corner and Dele Alli doubled the lead by heading in a Jesse Lingard cross into the box. Gareth Southgate has already exceeded expectations with this team and they still have a huge match to play going further. Here, I decipher five reasons why England secured a victory in this quarterfinal clash.

#5 Composed defensive trio

Southgate has taken a big decision by keeping the likes of Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill out of the squad and the playing XI respectively. The manager had decided to transform the team into a three-man defensive setup, but there were many doubts regarding the required personnel for carrying out this particular task. However, with Kyle Walker being fielded in the right side of a three-man backline, and John Stones along with Harry Maguire donning the other two spots, this English defence has looked composed and able enough to deal with difficult situations. All three of them are capable of playing the ball out from the back, with Harry usually romping to the other half in order to add up as an extra man in the midfield.

Stones showed good strength to hold the strikers, and Walker did well enough to break the midfield lines whilst also passing it around calmly to transition the play. Stones and Walker made five clearances each, as Maguire cleared the ball seven times. They dominated a Swedish side that thrived through aerial duels as Harry won 10 aerial duels and Stones won six of them. Moreover, the Leicester City defender delivered a couple of key passes in addition to his goal too. This clearly demonstrates that this backline showed good enough composure, and the required attacking impetus to bring an overall balanced structure to the game.


#2 Jesse Lingard’s decoy runs and overall midfield game

Jesse Lingard is not a proper attacking midfielder as such. He is more of a decoy runner, someone who plays from deeper position but has the knack of popping up at accurate positions inside the box in order to create chances for his teammates. The flamboyance in his game is ably complemented with his tenacity and high energy levels too. Starting alongside Henderson and Alli in the midfield today, he regularly popped up at the inward right-wing hole and passed the ball precisely for his teammates. Jesse registered a passing accuracy of 93.5%, the best amongst all the players who started this match.

He was regularly on the move, playing his trademark one-touch and move game that confuses and then dismantles the opposition’s midfield. England needed his cheekiness and creativity to chop off Sweden’s resolute backline, and that is what precisely happened. Alli’s head met Lingard’s delightful chip into the box and this goal meant that England strengthened their grip over the proceedings. He completed four dribbles, delivered a key pass, put in a cross and took four shots too. His off-the-ball movement created space for the other forwards, and his regular running provided the game some much-needed spark.


#3 Contrast between the midfield of both teams

On paper, England does not have the most creative of midfielders. Jordon Henderson is tasked with spraying the ball out from the back, and Alli along with Lingard are lined next to him. However, both of these players play in withdrawn roles for the national. Hence, they cannot be termed as playmakers whilst playing just alongside a holding midfielder. However, today there was a stark difference between the creativity that sourced out from the centre of the park of both England and Sweden. The Swedes actually did not have anything productive churning out from the middle of the ground, and had to resort to their characteristic approach of playing long balls from the defence.

England maintained composure in possession, and bossed the midfield due to this. They showed better movement, passing, produced better deliveries into the box and were generally more efficient from their midfield play. Sweden was unable to cope with it and eventually succumbed by dropping the intensity and failing to pressurize the Englishmen into losing the ball. Southgate’s tendency to shift away from the traditional English way of playing football reaped rich dividends in this particular clash.


#2 England were clinical, Sweden were not

At the end of the day, football games will always be decided through the number of goals that a certain team scores in the end. One can completely dominate the midfield, press the opponent high up on the field and form beautiful passing triangles; it doesn’t matter until you put the ball at the back of the net.

Sweden were outclassed in the midfield, but it is their defence that has garnered praise earlier in the tournament due to a no-nonsense approach and sturdy demeanor. Harry Kane regularly dropped down the line to hold the ball up, draw fouls and release Lingard, Sterling and Alli who were on the run. Sweden’s low block meant that England had to make the most out of the limited opportunities that they would get in front of the goal.

Accordingly, England took 12 shots, but only two of them were directed towards the target. This eventually means that both the shots that were shot on the target resulted into goals. Maguire’s thumping header left Olsen with no chance of stopping it. Dele’s effort could have been saved but the Spurs’ lad had run too close to the keeper and it was difficult for the custodian to thwart the danger from such a close-range. Sweden took three shots but couldn’t convert their chances into something productive as such. Overall, it was England’s efficiency in front of the goal that helped them secure a victory.


#1 Pickford, you beauty

Jordon Pickford had made just seven appearances for his country before the quarterfinal against Sweden. Hardly would have anyone thought that the eighth one would turn out to be so crucial and significant for him and the team too. The Everton keeper was commanding, vocal and always ready to arrange the line during set pieces. His reflexes were top-notch, and Pickford produced some breathtaking saves to deservedly keep a clean sheet in this game. He saved Marcus Berg’s effort via Emil Forsberg cross by diving to his left and palming it away in a quick moment.

Berg was denied again, this time through the centre from just five yards out as Pickford managed to get his fingertip on the ball and touched it away for a corner. John Guidetti took a shot too, but it was firmly handled away by the young lad, who has risen in prominence following England’s victory against Colombia in the penalty shootout. He came up with another promising, commanding performance for his country in a high-pressure situation and his stocks will surely increase after the World Cup.


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