The Three Lions played a very high line thereby negating the Swedish counter-attacks.
The second round of fixtures of the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup began as England took on Sweden, with the Three Lions coming out 0-2 victors. Gareth Southgate’s men took the lead in the first half through Harry Maguire.
The 25-year-old Yorkshireman rose high above all the rest to thunder in a header from an Ashley Young corner into the Swedish goal. Up until that point and beyond, the game was a very cagey one with neither team looking to commit to attacks. Sweden adopted similar tactics to those they employed against Switzerland, by sitting deep in midfield and springing into counter-attacks.
However, Southgate was prepared for his opponents to park the bus as it were. Maguire, John Stones and Kyle Walker played so far up the pitch that it looked at times that they were playing as auxiliary midfielders. This extremely high line made sure that any potential counter-attacks were nipped in the bud.
The Swedes were tracked as they tried to run into the channels, ensuring that the English kept their first clean-sheet of the competition. One would have thought that opposition teams would be privy to England scoring from set-pieces after the games they have played so far in the tournament. However, it was exactly this ace that caught the Swedes off guard.
The zonal marking system failed as Emil Fosberg was caught in no man’s land as Leicester City’s Player of the Season scored past Robin Olsen. The match was far more stretched in the second half as the English defence fell back a little to allow the wing-backs more room to operate in. Young and Kieran Trippier looked more of a threat but as a result, the Swedes earned themselves a few good opportunities.
Jordan Pickford was a man that was questioned a lot in the build-up to the tournament and even during it, with Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois commenting on his comparatively diminutive stature. Pickford stands at six feet and is one of the shortest keepers at the tournament. However, he has not let this get in his way as he put in an incredible shift to keep the Three Lions comfortable throughout the game.
Jesse Lingard is finally proving to the world why he is so highly-rated by all the managers he has played under, as he has emerged as one of England’s standout players at the World Cup. The 25-year-old has an ability to drift into pockets of space that forces the defence to follow him, opening up channels for his teammates.
The Manchester United man looked to have been given a slightly different role in this game. He was playing off the front pairing of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling and was almost constantly positioned at the edge of the box. It was from this position that he sent a sublime ball into the box for Dele Alli to score England’s second and to put the game beyond the Swedes.
Southgate does have a few decisions to make before his team lines up for the semi-final, particularly with regard to Sterling’s place in the side. But, on the whole, he has done an immense job in getting a country to finally believe in their side. Football is edging closer to home.