England fans have been chanting that the World Cup “it’s coming home” for quite a while. But following England’s recent performances, they have every reason to believe the team can – and actually, will – contend for the World Cup glory. This time, The Three Lions easily dispatched Sweden during the quarterfinals with a convincing performance and a comfortable 2-0 score. Strikes from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli were enough for Gareth Southgate’s men, who stream-rolled past the Scandinavian side to reach their first World Cup semi-finals since Italy 1990.
A dominant start results in a first-half lead
As it has been the trend during the entire World Cup, England got off to a fast start. The Three Lions looked active through the right flank, where the trio of Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker and Alli were constantly overlapping and causing problems to the Swede defence. The first real chance to score came in the 18th minute, when Harry Kane tested Robin Olsen from the edge of the box. However, his effort went a bit wide. It was the first real test for Sweden, who minutes earlier had a decent scoring attempt through Victor Claesson, although his shot went sailing over the bar.
England had to wait until the 30th minute to break the deadlock, though. And they did it using one of their prefered weapons: a set-piece situation. Following a corner kick from the left side taken by Ashley Young, Harry Maguire rose taller than everyone else to nod the ball home past Olsen. It was a sort of revenge for Maguire, as the Leicester defender was the one who lost the aerial duel against Yerry Mina in the Round of 16 match against Colombia.
England did not take too many risks in the remainder of the first half, although Raheem Sterling – who had a forgettable game once again – did cause some havoc in the 45th minute when he sneaked into the box, but Olsen came out of his line quick to clear the danger. England dominated the game overall, however, and returned to the locker room with a deserved 1-0 score.
Alli seals the deal…
Sweden needed to shake things up in the second half, and they certainly played with a more attacking approach. In fact, they only needed two minutes to threaten Jordan Pickford, who pulled off a stunning save following a header from Marcus Berg. It would be first notice from Sweden, but Pickford would prove to be more than ready for the challenges ahead of him. The Everton goalkeeper had a stellar performance between the posts during the second 45 minutes.
In the meantime, England would score the second goal… and once again it would be through a header. This time, the team’s two creative minds – Alli and Jesse Lingard – would combine for tbe strike; the Manchester United winger found the Tottenham star all alone in the far post, and Alli blasted a close-range header right into the net. Olsen couldn’t do anything, and just like that England had jumped ahead by a two-goal margin.
…while Pickford proves his worth (again)
As mentioned above, Pickford would end up playing a huge role on England’s presence in the semi-finals. Considering Sweden had to adapt an all-out attack strategy in the second half – including the entrances of John Guidetti and Pontus Jansson – Pickford turned out to be at his best when required often. He would once again deny Claesson in the 62nd minute, and later would come up big on a big shot from Berg. The towering striker was Sweden’s biggest attacking threat, but he simply couldn’t beat Pickford.
England didn’t do much during the remainder of the game. Knowing they had a healthy two-goal lead, The Three Lions simply moved the ball around waiting for Björn Kuipers’ final whistle. Maguire had a chance to add a third goal (66′) but his effort went over the bar, though. England didn’t really needed another strike. They closed things out comfortably, and rounded out another stellar performance on their way to the semi-finals.
With the win, England have now found themselves in the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since Italy 1990. And they have every right to dream about winning the title considering Croatia or Russia will meet them in the next stage. These 23 lads have given England every right to think about the title with their recent performances. And while “it hasn’t come home” yet, there is no denying that the title is getting closer and closer for The Three Lions.
Sweden: Olsen (5); Krafth (4) (Jansson (-), 85′), Lindelof (5), Granqvist (6), Augustinsson (4); Claesson (6), Larsson (5), Ekdal (5), Forsberg (4) (M. Olsson (5), 65′); Berg (6), Toivonen (5) (Guidetti (5), 65′)
England: Pickford (8); Walker (6), Stones (6), Maguire (7); Trippier (6), Henderson (7) (Dier (-), 85′), Young (6); Alli (7) (Delph (-), 77′), Lingard (7); Kane (6), Sterling (4) (Rashford (-), 90+1′)
Goals: Maguire (1-0, 30′), Alli (2-0, 59′)
Referee: Björn Kuipers (NED)
Yellow Cards: Guidetti, S. Larsson (SWE); Maguire (ENG)
Red Cards: None
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