England Against Sweden Won’t Be Pretty but It Will Be Gripping
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England Against Sweden Won’t Be Pretty but It Will Be Gripping

The dreamers can rightly dream of it coming home, and it’s true that England have a terrific chance of going all the way at this summer’s World Cup.

Defeat to Belgium in their final group game saw England fall into the attractive half of the draw and they advanced to the quarter finals courtesy of a penalty shootout win over Colombia.

It wasn’t pretty, as the game descended into an ugly scrap and make no mistake England were as guilty of using the dark arts as their opponents were. Maybe that has been lacking in recent tournaments, that the Three Lions have not been prepared to go deep enough to get the job done.

There is a unity about the England squad Gareth Southgate has put together, and it is helping them in their quest.

The next test comes on Saturday afternoon against Sweden in Samara, and battling qualities may be needed more than slick, attacking football.

In the post-Zlatan Ibrahimovic era, Sweden are about the collective and Janne Andersson’s team will be difficult to break down. 4-4-2 is Sweden’s tactical choice; they will retreat into their shell when not in possession and will defend with purpose.

Like England, their win over Switzerland in the last 16 was not pleasing on the eye, but for the most part they controlled the play and were worthy winners – even if it came courtesy of a deflected strike from Emil Forsberg.

The meeting between the two will not have the needle that was on show in England’s win over Colombia, but the Swedes will make themselves extremely difficult to break down and it’s unlikely we will see a flurry of goals.

Harry Kane is topping the charts in the race for the Golden Boot with six goals, but he’s done it on the back of little worthwhile service. Three penalties, two poacher’s finishes from corners and a deflected strike are how he has got his goals, and it’s remarkable that he has had just nine efforts on goal.

In the second half and during extra time against Colombia, viewers would have been forgiven for thinking Kane had been subbed off as he was so far on the periphery he could easily have been sat alongside the England band cheering on the side. That was not Kane’s fault, as those charged with the task of supplying him failed in that regard.

Against Sweden, the hope is that Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling step up and provide their attacking talisman with the service he craves. The worry is that having failed to do it so far in the tournament, they may find it difficult to impose themselves on a Sweden side who will contract space and force England to attack from wide areas.

Tournaments are often lit up by moments of magic, but the flashiest, most eye-pleasing sides do not always come out of on top. England and Sweden are in the substance over style bucket and on Saturday afternoon one of them will dreaming about a World Cup semi-final.

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