Monday 16 July 2018

England ENG 2

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England ENG 1

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Forsberg steps out of Zlatan's shadow to seal Swede success

Sweden 1 Switzerland 0

Emil Forsberg celebrates after scoring Sweden's winning goal. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Emil Forsberg celebrates after scoring Sweden's winning goal. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Steve Douglas

The heir to Zlatan Ibrahimovic finally delivered for Sweden at the World Cup.

Emil Forsberg scored a deflected goal in the 66th minute to give the Swedes victory and a place in the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in 24 years.

Shy and understated, the 26-year-old Forsberg couldn't be more different than the larger-than-life Ibrahimovic, who ruled the Sweden team for more than a decade and was the greatest player the country ever produced.

But Forsberg arrived in Russia shouldering the creative burden left by Ibrahimovic following his retirement two years ago, and the attacking midfielder's skills and slick movement stood out at St Petersburg Stadium.

His goal was scruffy, though. After getting past Granit Xhaka, Forsberg didn't get much power behind his shot from the edge of the area and it was likely heading straight for Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer. However, it took a deflection off the foot of centre-back Manuel Akanji and bounced into the net.

It was enough to make Sweden the fifth European team to reach the quarter-finals.

Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez, right, vies for the ball with Sweden's Emil Krafth. Photo: Darko Bandic/AP Photo
Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez, right, vies for the ball with Sweden's Emil Krafth. Photo: Darko Bandic/AP Photo

This was another opportunity spurned by the Swiss, who have reached the last 16 in four of the last five World Cups only to be eliminated without scoring a goal.

They finished the game with 10 men after right-back Michael Lang was sent off in stoppage time for a professional foul on Sweden substitute Martin Olsson.

The referee initially awarded a penalty kick but later gave a free-kick on the edge of the area after a video review. Switzerland were fortunate to still be alive at that point.

Fragile

Sweden's Marcus Berg, left, and Switzerland's Johan Djourou challenge for the ball. Photo: Martin Meissner/AP Photo
Sweden's Marcus Berg, left, and Switzerland's Johan Djourou challenge for the ball. Photo: Martin Meissner/AP Photo

Ibrahimovic would surely have put away some of the first-half chances created by his countrymen against a fragile Switzerland defence which was missing the suspended Fabian Schaer and Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Striker Marcus Berg was the biggest culprit, spurning two openings in quick succession, while Albin Ekdal volleyed over with the goal at his mercy.

The Swedes were limited but played to the strengths that got them past Italy in the World Cup play-off and to the top of a group containing defending champion Germany, Mexico and South Korea. Their long balls caused panic and they were more bullish in their tackling in midfield.

The Swiss certainly weren't playing like a team ranked No 6 in the world and with only one loss in their previous 25 games. Their build-up play was sloppy, with the best effort falling to Remo Freuler with a late header that was saved by Robin Olsen.

Irish Independent

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