Analysis: Sturdy backline does Swedish job on wasteful Switzerland
Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar
Another clean-sheet further solidified the Swedes status as one of the best defences at the tournament.
Sweden ousted Switzerland in the battle of the Europeans in the Round of 16, with Emil Forsberg's deflected goal being enough to see them qualify for their first FIFA World Cup quarterfinals in 24 years! They didn't really give the Swiss many chances to pounce upon in the game and Sweden's defensive prowess was on display with another solid showing at the back.
While the game started off quite blandly and was a cagey affair for most of the first period, Switzerland were playing with fire early on with a high-line system which almost cost them. Sweden got some chances off their mistakes with Marcus Berg and midfielder Albin Ekdal getting the lion's share of the opportunities in the first half.
Ekdal scuffed a brilliant chance when his close-range volley sailed over the net, while Berg must've been kicking himself for not being able to capitalize on Switzerland's blatant errors and watching his shots go wide.
Berg's inability to score had Sweden missing the finishing boots of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for a bit, but they seemed a much more assured unit thanks to how organized they were. Switzerland were having much of the possession, but struggled to create chances in the first half, due to how tightly marked their star players were. Xherdan Shaqiri wasn't able to be his influential self in the first half, while Steven Zuber and Blerim Dzemaili were both isolated by the impressive Sweden defense.
The game switched gears in the second half, where both teams showed much more intent going forward and tried to go for the winner. Switzerland were creating opportunities for themselves, but there was just nobody to finish them as Josip Drmic had a nightmare, owing to how excellently the duo of Victor Lindelof and Andreas Granqvist had shut him out of the game. Shaqiri grew into the contest in the second period and was amazing on the right flank, showing the impressive ability to cut back and send in dangerous crosses which nobody could divert into the net.
In the end, it was a bit of luck and clinical movement from Sweden's Forsberg which broke the deadlock in the 66th minute. Forsberg played a clever one-two with Ola Toivonen, who dragged a few defenders with him, allowing Forsberg to get some free space just outside the box and let it rip. He saw his shot deflected by Manuel Akanji (who was superb up until that point) and sail into the net to send the Swedish into raptures.
Forsberg's goal brought in some urgency in the game, with Switzerland making some attacking substitutions on the lookout for an equalizer. On came Breel Embolo and Haris Seferovic to add something new to their attack, but the lack of a proper striker upfront really hurt the Swiss.
Sweden strengthened as a unit and decided to pack the middle of the park, forcing Switzerland to only go through only one route while attacking. But, the terrific anticipation and clearing ability of Lindelof and Granqvist made sure that Robin Olsen barely hade to make a save, apart from one very late into the game.
Sweden will face either England or Colombia in the quarterfinals, something which will definitely be a bigger task for them. But, knowing their defensive strength and unpredictable goalscoring ability, it could turn out to be the year of the unheralded Swedes.
Published: Wed Jul 04, 2018 12:11 AM IST