Headers from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli gave England a 2-0 win over Sweden as they reached their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.
England dominated the ball in Samara and were good value for the victory, but did have goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to thank for avoiding a nervous ending.
After a laboured start, England took the lead through Maguire’s header from a corner (30), his first international goal and England’s fifth from a set-piece at this World Cup, more than any other side.
Sweden: Olsen (6), Krafth (5), Lindelof (5), Granqvist (6), Augustinsson (6), Larsson (5), Ekdal (5), Forsberg (5), Claesson (6), Berg (6), Toivonen (5)
Subs: Guidetti (5), Martin Olsson (5), Jansson (NA)
England: Pickford (9), Walker (7), Stones (7), Maguire (9), Trippier (7), Lingard (7), Henderson (7), Alli (7), Young (7), Sterling (7), Kane (7)
Subs: Delph (NA), Dier (NA), Rashford (NA)
Man of the match: Jordan Pickford
Alli doubled England’s lead on 58 minutes with another header, creeping in at the back post to convert Jesse Lingard’s cute delivery.
Pickford was indomitable in the England net, making three fine saves in the second half to keep Sweden at bay, as England kept a clean sheet for the first time in the tournament.
Sweden slowed the tempo early on as the game got off to a dull start, but the first half-chance fell to England as Harry Kane flashed wide from 20 yards after good running from Raheem Sterling.
Set-pieces have played an integral part in England’s success so far at the World Cup, and the dead-ball delivery came up trumps again on 30 minutes as Maguire piled in 12 yards out to head Ashley Young’s drilled cross past Robin Olsen.
England were unchanged following the victory over Colombia in the last 16, while Sweden made two changes. Emil Krafth replaced the suspended Mikael Lustig in defence, while Sebastian Larsson returned from suspension in place of Gustav Svensson.
Sterling then had a golden chance to double England’s lead before the break from Jordan Henderson’s fine through-ball, but he failed to take on Olsen, dwelling too long on the ball before his rebounded shot was blocked.
Sweden hardly had a sniff in the first half, but nearly levelled early in the second as Marcus Berg rose above Young at the far post from Ludwig Augustinson’s cross, but Pickford did brilliantly to tip it away.
England regained control, however, and were 2-0 up just before the hour mark as Alli scored just his third international goal, nodding home six yards out from Lingard’s cross from the right.
Sweden reacted well and should have halved the deficit but for Pickford’s superb save, diving low to his right to keep out Viktor Claesson’s effort, and the Everton man was again at his best moments later to tip over Berg’s shot on the turn.
But England saw out the final stages with professionalism, reaching their first tournament semi-final since Euro 96 and their first at the World Cup since Italia 90.
Man of the match – Jordan Pickford
Fresh from his heroics on Tuesday night in Moscow, the Everton stopper was at his best again on Saturday to extinguish any potential second-half anxiety.
His three saves – from Berg, Claesson and Berg again late on – were brilliant reaction stops, and though his distribution was scratchy at times, he finally got the clean sheet he had been craving at this tournament.
- Six of England’s last 11 goals against Sweden have been scored via headers, all from different players (Sol Campbell, Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry, Andy Carroll, Maguire and Alli.
- England – who scored with both shots on target in this match – have found the net with 10 of their last 13 shots on target at the 2018 World Cup.
- England have scored 11 goals in a World Cup tournament for only the second time, also doing so in their victorious year of 1966.
- Alli is the second youngest player to score for England at the World Cup (22y 87d), behind only Michael Owen (18y 190d against Romania in 1998).
England will now play either Russia or Croatia in the World Cup semi-final on Wednesday evening in Moscow