Neither were expected to make it this far but having done so, their World Cup campaigns can only be deemed a success from here.
However, both England and Sweden have caught the scent of history and are determined to make it. They know that there’s potential to pull off something special here.
Level heads will be required when they face off at the Samara Arena for a place in the semi-finals though and the tactical intricacies of the encounter come to the fore.
WIDTH IS KEY
Sweden are notoriously compact and difficult to carve open so England will have to double up on the width they generate in order to stretch their stubborn defence.
Both wing-backs should be instructed to hug the touchline, creating a little more space in the final third for the likes of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling to operate in. Kieran Trippier’s delivery has been exceptional and Gareth Southgate will hope to capitalise on that.
The Tottenham man averages 3.7 crosses per game, more than any other player at the World Cup while his 11 accurate crosses from open play so far is also a tournament-high, despite sitting out the game against Belgium. Seven of his 11 corners have found a team-mate as well, with one providing an assist.
While Ashley Young has impressed in a defensive capacity on the other side, he hasn’t been able to whip in crosses with the same frequency or indeed accuracy. Given the 32-year-old limped off during extra-time against Colombia, Danny Rose may be a better option.
The left-footed wingback would also serve to provide more width as he can go down the outside as opposed to Young’s nature to check back onto his stronger right foot and deliver inswinging crosses – a move that also affords opposition defenders more time to anticipate the delivery. It also helps that Sweden’s first-choice right-back Mikael Lustig is banned, with Bologna’s Emil Krafth stepping in.
Germany got no change from the Swedes in the first half of their group game but had them on the ropes in the second period when they moved Timo Werner to the left and attacked with pace and genuine width.
England can take inspiration from that. Switzerland tried to do the same but their finishing let them down, while England move the ball much quicker and should create more opportunities within that strategy.
LOW BLOCK AND FORSBERG THREAT
Sweden play a 4-4-2 formation, utilising a low block without possession that has proved to be a nightmare for opponents to breach.
Up front, the two forwards close down the man on the ball but in a conservative fashion as denying the player time to break through the lines with a penetrative forward pass is their primary target, not winning possession.
Meanwhile, the wingers tuck in to block passing lanes. They force their opponents wide and trust their sturdy defence, ably marshalled by their inspirational skipper Andreas Granqvist, to then deal with crosses into the box.
In attack, they look to ping the ball to one of the strikers and break from there but often look to Emil Forsberg for direction. If the long ball out from defence to either Marcus Berg or Ola Toivonen is not on, Forsberg’s dribbling and ability to carry the ball forward comes into play.
Bombing down the left channel, the 26-year-old is adept at then seeking one of the front men or winning free-kicks in dangerous areas. With Trippier pushing up to support the attack, he’ll look to exploit the space in behind him, requiring Kyle Walker to be alert to the danger.
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