Emil Forsberg’s deflected strike booked Sweden a place in the World Cup quarter-finals after a 1-0 win over Switzerland on Tuesday afternoon.
A disappointing last-16 match was settled by a scruffy winning goal in the 66th minute, as defender Manuel Akanji accidentally steered the ball past Yann Sommer to set up a clash with either Colombia or England on Saturday.
The result means Sweden have reached their first quarter-final since 1994 and are just two victories away from their second World Cup final, while Switzerland, who had Michael Lang sent off for denying Martin Olsson a clear goalscoring opportunity in injury time, are on their way home after a flat display.
But while the Swedes secured their third clean sheet in four matches at Russia 2018, the goal came from one of only three shots on target and neither Colombia nor England will have seen much to concern them in an attacking sense.
Sweden: Olsen (7), Lustig (7), Lindelof (7), Granqvist (7), Augustinsson (7), Claesson (6), Svensson (6), Ekdal (5), Forsberg (7), Berg (5), Toivonen (5).
Subs: Olsson (6), Krafth (6), Thelin (n/a)
Switzerland: Sommer (7), Lang (5), Djourou (6), Akanji (6), Rodriguez (7), Behrami (6), Xhaka (6), Shaqiri (6), Dzemaili (6), Zuber (6), Drmic (6)
Subs: Embolo (6), Seferovic (6)
Man of the match: Emil Forsberg
A tight first half was punctuated by poor finishing from both sides. Sommer produced a sharp save to his right to keep out Marcus Berg’s bouncing volley and Albin Ekdal blasted over when he seemed destined to volley home Mikael Lustig’s right-wing cross as Sweden wasted the best of the chances.
Switzerland’s best opportunity in the opening 45 minutes fell to Blerim Dzemaili, but he blasted over the bar from just inside the area and the profligacy from both teams continued after the break as Ola Toivonen smashed a presentable chance well over.
Sweden made an enforced change as Gustav Svensson replaced Seb Larsson. Captain Andreas Granqvist started despite his wife being due to give birth today. Switzerland made four changes with Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar both banned.
After a tepid first hour, a huge slice of fortune was required to give Sweden the lead in the 66th minute.
Toivonen engineered a shooting opportunity for the lively Forsberg who shimmied on the edge of the area before striking a low shot which would have been comfortably gathered by Sommer before the unfortunate Akanji stretched out a leg to deflect it into the top corner.
Even after the goal, Switzerland failed to carve out significant goalscoring chances. Their best came in the 80th minute when Breel Embolo’s header was hacked away by a combination of Forsberg and Andreas Granqvist as Sweden’s resolute defence stood firm.
Substitute Haris Seferovic’s header finally forced a save from Robin Olsen in injury-time and a bad day for the Swiss was capped in the 93rd minute when Lang was sent off for a professional foul on Martin Olsson as he ran clean through on goal.
Referee Damir Skomina initially awarded a penalty before awarding a free-kick on the edge of the area after a VAR review, but while Switzerland’s wait for a first World Cup quarter-final since 1954 goes on, Sweden continued to exceed expectations with Samara the next stop on their journey.
- Switzerland have never won a World Cup knockout match; suffering elimination in all seven matches.
- Sweden have won back to back World Cup matches for the first time since 1958, when they won the quarter-final and semi-final on their way to the final.
- This was only Switzerland’s fourth defeat in their last 15 matches at the last four World Cup tournaments.
- This defeat was Switzerland’s first since October 2017 when they lost 2-0 to Portugal in a World Cup qualifier.
- Emil Forsberg scored his first World Cup goal for Sweden with his 14th shot of the tournament.
- Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen has kept three clean sheets at the 2018 World Cup, a joint-record for a Swedish goalkeeper in World Cup finals history.
- Sweden’s Marcus Berg attempted three shots in this match and has now had 13 shots without scoring at the 2018 World Cup, more than any other player.
Man of the Match – Emil Forsberg
This was a match of little quality, but Sweden’s goalscorer was the one player who looked capable of unlocking the opposition’s defence. While Switzerland’s star man Xherdan Shaqiri struggled for impact, Forsberg’s shimmy before his goal was a rare moment of class and he earned the slice of luck that came with his finish. He ran gamely and regularly looked to play the ball forward until his withdrawal on 81 minutes as Janne Andersson sought to close the game out.
Sweden will now await the winner of Tuesday evening’s final last-16 tie between England and Colombia. That quarter-final clash is scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Samara (3pm UK time).