Russia 2018 Watch: Swedes roll over Swiss
PUBLISHED: 19:06 03 July 2018 | UPDATED: 19:06 03 July 2018
Read our World Cup blog over the coming weeks. Lane Dias reviews the penultimate last-16 tie
Sweden were making their 50th appearance at the World Cup finals as they took on the Swiss, a feat which meant that only Mexico had made more appearances than them in the tournament without winning the competition.
The Swiss had suffered just one defeat in their last 25 matches – a defeat to my beloved Portugal in the qualifiers, which meant that the Portuguese qualified for the tournament automatically while Switzerland had to progress via a play-off against Northern Ireland, which was won through a controversial penalty.
Sweden were hoping to advance into the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time since 1994 – where they finished in third place, while Switzerland were aiming to reach the last eight for the first time since 1954 (which they hosted) and seeking to avoid a second consecutive last-16 exit.
Switzerland were without skipper and new Arsenal signing Stephan Lichtsteiner as a result of suspension and ahead of the match, the former Juventus full-back had only missed 25 minutes of the 1,590 his team had played at major tournaments since the 2008 European Championships.
Meanwhile, the Swedes were being led out by captain Andreas Granqvist, whose wife Sofie was apparently in labour to their second child according to Match of the Day commentator Simon Brotherton.
In a first half of few clear-cut chances, Sweden had the lion’s share and went close in the 27th minute when Marcus Berg’s strike drew a fine save from Yann Sommer at full-stretch.
They should have taken the lead five minutes before the interval, when Mikael Lustig’s terrific cross found the unmarked Albin Ekdal, but he blazed over the bar on the volley.
In the 66th minute, the Swedes finally made the breakthrough when Emil Forsberg cut inside to fire home via a wicked deflection off Manuel Akanji.
But in the last minute of normal time, Switzerland went close to an equaliser when substitute Haris Seferović latched on to Ricardo Rodríguez’s cross with a glancing header that Robin Olsen reacted well to save.
Three minutes later, Sweden thought they had won a penalty when Michael Lang impeded substitute Martin Olsson on the edge of the area.
Referee Damir Skomina had initially pointed to the spot, but after reviewing the incident with VAR decided that the contact was outside of the area and overturned his decision to instead award a free-kick.
Ola Toivonen, who was celebrating his 32nd birthday today, stepped up to take the resulting-set-piece which was palmed away well by Sommer.
It was the last kick of the game as Switzerland bowed out of the competition for a fourth occasion at the last-16 and Sweden marched on, to a possible meeting with England....