England and Sweden will not need to be told about the significance of their quarter-final in Samara on 7 July. No matter which team advances, it will be hugely significant due to the fact neither side has made it that far at a FIFA World Cup for almost a quarter of a century.
For Sweden, if they advance to the semi-finals, it would be the first time since USA 1994, when they finished in third place. As for England, a last-four appearance in Russia would be their first since Italy 1990, when they finished fourth.
Sweden are coming off the back of a resilient 1-0 victory over Switzerland thanks to Emil Forsberg’s deflected goal. The Three Lions were able to overcome the mental hurdle of conceding a stoppage-time equaliser and defeated Colombia 4-3 on penalties after the match ended 1-1 after extra time, to win the nation’s first World Cup finals shootout at the fourth attempt.
Sebastian Larsson is back from suspension but Sweden will miss one of their best defensive assets in Mikael Lustig due to yellow card suspension. The game plan, however, won’t change as Janne Andersson’s men will keep on doing what has brought them success so far, focusing on their solid defence and using counter-attacks as their main source to create chances.
“We have made progress but we haven’t achieved success yet,” was Gareth Southgate’s telling assessment of England’s adventure so far. His message to the players is that being in the last eight of a World Cup doesn’t happen very often, so make this moment count. As shown in the previous match, knockout football is no longer about over-cautious, apprehensive performances for the Three Lions, so expect plenty of chances and attacking football.