'Proud' Sweden march through to the World Cup quarter-finals
Deflected goal from Emil Forsberg puts the Swedes in last eight as they defeat Switzerland 1-0 in Saint Petersburg
The match was far from this month’s best, destined not to be remembered amid an incredibly memorable World Cup, but Sweden will not care one iota.
They are World Cup quarter-finalists, Switzerland not quite swatted aside in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday, rather ground down and eliminated.
Sweden won 1-0 through Emil Forsberg’s heavily deflected shot midway through the second half, sealing a place in the last eight of a global finals for the first time in 24 years.
Switzerland, ranked sixth in the world no matter the contention of how they rose so high, had been felled once in 25 matches. But Sweden got past them, just as they got out of a group containing world champions Germany.
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With Al Ain striker Marcus Berg and their commendably cohesive team and squad, Janne Andersson’s men march on. That 1994 side, the World Cup bronze medalists, could soon have company. Already, though, it has been a remarkable run.
“It means so much for me, I’m just so happy in particular for the team that we managed to win again in an extraordinary way,” Forsberg told the media afterwards.
“It is wonderful; we don’t get that many opportunities. I’m just so proud to witness what we’re achieving together - it brings tears to my eyes. It makes me so proud and I hope everyone is proud is Sweden.”
That they will be. As always, Sweden were gritty and perfectly attuned to their workmanlike groove, their effort gargantuan. The only criticism is they should have had more to show for it.
On eight minutes, Berg slashed an effort high and wide. Eyes closed, he knew it represented a very presentable chance. From the ensuing goal-kick, Sweden pressed Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer into a mistake, Berg’s shot was blocked and Albin Ekdal lashed the follow-up over the bar.
Switzerland later missed when Blerim Dzemaili was well placed to strike, lacing a shot beyond their rivals’ goal, before Ekdal somehow volleyed over Mikael Lustig’s cross when free at the back post. He was seven yards out.
Not long after the interval, Sweden striker Ola Toivonen lifted a half-volley well over. Yet, on 66 minutes, they finally broke through.
Impressive throughout, Forsberg shimmied on the edge of the Swiss area, scuffed his shot and Manuel Akanji’s outstretched leg deflected it up and over Sommer.
It was fortunate, but no more than Sweden deserved. It was the RB Leipzig midfielder’s 14th shot of the tournament. No other player had had more without scoring.
With World Cup hopes fading, Switzerland tried to force an equaliser. With 12 minutes remaining, Francois Moubandje’s header was blocked on the line by Forsberg and hacked clear by Andreas Granqvist, his captain.
Then, in injury-time, Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen saved well from a Haris Seferovic header. Seconds later, Switzerland were down to 10 men – an irrelevance given the time on the clock – when Michael Lang pushed Martin Olsson as he was clean through.
The referee pointed to the spot, although VAR helped downgrade the award from a penalty to a free-kick. In the end, it mattered little to Sweden. The whistle went, and they danced and sung in front of their light but loud support, ecstatic simply that they were World Cup quarter-finalists once more.
“Football is a team sport and this team really personifies that,” Andersson said. “We make sure we work hard for each other on and off the pitch. And I’m just so incredibly happy that we’re getting the results.
“We’re so focused on what we’re doing right now that I don’t think I’m taking any of this in. I’ve understood that we won the match today and went through the last 16. I’m not really worried about anything else at this stage.
“We’re not satisfied with this: we want to win the next match as well. We don’t want to lower the bar or the level of ambition. Some day I will look back on this in future and be very, very satisfied.
“But now I’m focusing on the next match on Saturday.”
Updated: July 4, 2018 01:15 AM