While many in England believe that it is coming home at World Cup 2018, it is hard to ignore the fact that the Three Lions have not yet negotiated their tricky quarter-final tie with Sweden.
The game on Saturday afternoon is England’s most significant in the last decade and a bit. The last time the Three Lions made the last four of a World Cup was back in 1990. I remember it well, as a seven-year-old crying my eyes out as Germany beat us in a penalty shoot-out.
Unfortunately, I have endured many penalty shoot-out losses since then with the Three Lions. The victory over Colombia was England’s first ever shoot-out win at a World Cup. For all the delight of making it through to the last eight, we should not forget that we still have to beat an excellent Sweden team to progress further in Russia.
Sweden are a very dangerous opponent
In many ways, Switzerland would have been an easier opponent for England in the quarter-finals, despite the Swiss being the highest ranked team left in our section of the draw.
One of the main reasons that Switzerland would have been favourable opponents is the fact that Sweden are just so hard to defeat. Swedish boss Janne Andersson has created a team based on hard-work and team ethic.
Gone are the days when superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic dominated the team. This team has few stars, as the team is the star. The most highly-rated player is arguably RB Leipzig winger Emil Forsberg, who scored the winner against Switzerland in a typical 1-0 Sweden win.
I say typical Sweden win because they tend to be involved in low scoring games. The World Cup group stage games against Germany and Mexico were the exception rather than the rule.
Sweden have a highly organised and solid defence, which has kept clean sheets in five of their last six games. They tend to hit teams on the break, as their forward options are not great. They have proven in qualifying and in Russia that their style of football gets results.
England a horrible record against Sweden
Sweden are something of a bogey side for England. In the last 20 games that the Three Lions have faced the Scandinavians, England have won just four times. In that run, Sweden have recorded nine wins.
That is the sort of record that England boss Gareth Southgate will know all about. He will attempt to get the message across to the players that they cannot afford to be complacent.
Sweden got the better of the Netherlands and Italy in making it to the World Cup. They will certainly fancy their chances of a repeat against England on Saturday afternoon.
England the favourites to progress
Despite history being against them and a tough game with Sweden, England are odds of 19/20 to progress to the semi-finals of the World Cup. Looking at other odds, Southgate’s side are the favourites to make the final of the competition, mainly due to their perceived easier route to the final.
There is a belief from the fans that England can go all the way and lift the trophy at World Cup 2018. However, as English fans, we also have an inbuilt sense of doom, as we have seen the Three Lions slip-up unexpectedly on so many occasions.
The exit at Euro 2016 in the last 16 against Iceland was undoubtedly a game that springs to mind. However, England went into that clash with the Nordic nation highly complacent.
Everybody connected with England knows that the players cannot show the same sort of attitude against Sweden, as if they do then the World Cup journey could come to a very abrupt end in Russia.
Can England overcome Sweden to make it into the World Cup semi-finals?
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