Maguire, Alli seal semis berth for England

Harry Maguire and Dele Alli scored for England in an easy 2-0 win against Sweden to enter the semifinals.

Dele Alli celebrates after scoring England's second goal against Sweden in Samara Arena.   -  Getty Images

A World Cup quarterfinal with the possibility of securing a last-four berth should be enough incentive for Swedish and English fans to make a beeline for Samara. But Russia’s geographical vastness and other logistical issues ensured the two national sides played in a quarter-empty stadium – though the official figure, at the end, pegged it at 4900 short of the maximum number.

SWE vs ENG - Key highlights

Devoid of popular support, the sides started on a pedestrian pattern with neither failing to reach the desired intensity or quality that a FIFA World Cup quarterfinal deserves. In the end, England’s greater professionalism and firepower saw it through as it won only its second competitive game against the Scandinavian nation.

 

Early on, the Swedes, contended with England enjoying possession, used its numbers in midfield to slow down play, thus nullifying the threat of pace that England posses. Raheem Sterling created some panic with his run in the 19th minute but Harry Kane’s wayward finish did no harm. England, as envisioned, found it hard to unearth its way down the middle and increasingly looked to its two wide men, Ashley Young and Kieran Trippier, to provide the attacking flair. 

The team’s luck from set pieces continued as Harry Maguire – lining up behind Kane – out-jumped the tall Swedish defence to score the opener from a Young corner as the clock struck the half-hour mark. But even the goal failed to wake the game from its slumber, as both teams continued a pitched battle like two boxing featherweights (this was no heavyweight fight), with each sizing up the other but in no mood to deliver the final punch. 

 

Sterling came close as he found the goalkeeper at his mercy after some fine work by Trippier but failed to beat Robin Olsen, with Victor Lindelof coming to the help of his goalkeeper. 

Sweden finally showed some bite with Marcus Berg forcing Jordan Pickford to dive to his right and keep out a bouncing header in the second minute of the final half. Sweden’s need to push men forward opened up the game a little with England benefitting from its opponent's increased attacking intent. Gareth Southgate’s lads, now finding space, soon doubled their lead with Dele Alli beating Olsen with a free header as the usually alert Swedish defence failed to spot his run on the far post from a Jesse Lingard cross in the 58th minute.

 

Sweden had a chance of its own when a snapshot from Viktor Claesson, four minutes later, was kept away by Pickford with a reflex save, and Jordan Henderson was close at hand to take care of the rebound. A long clearance from its goalkeeper gave the Scandinavians another bite and Berg’s turning effort from the quick counter was tipped just over by the extended Pickford.

FULL WC COVERAGE

The forward-pressing Swedes, clearly getting tired, left enough holes in the back to keep the England strikers in the game but Sterling and the substitute Fabian Delph failed to show enough interest to vie for the ball as a rebound came their way with minutes to play for.

The Three Lions – perhaps saving their gas for the further battles ahead – completed a professional, but unspectacular job. 

  Dugout videos