Sweden beats Switzerland to reach quarterfinals

Sweden continues to defy expectations at the World Cup and broke a 24-year drought by beating Switzerland 1-0 to progress to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1994.

Having helped boot reigning champions Germany out of the competition in the group stage, the Swedes have now disposed of what was the highest-ranked team left in the bottom-half of the draw.

In a match where the level of finishing was poor, Emil Frosberg’s deflected strike from distance in the second half proved to be the difference between the sides.

Sweden will now play either England or Colombia in the last eight on July 7.

A match which was low in entertainment by the standards set in this tournament had high drama in injury time when the referee initially awarded a penalty and sent off Michael Lang for a foul on Martin Olsson who was galloping through on goal with just the goalkeeper to beat.

But after reviewing on VAR, the referee deemed the transgression happened outside the box and instead awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box, which Ola Toivonen forced a diving save from Yann Sommer.

Happy half century for Sweden

The Swiss would perhaps have expected to face Germany at this stage, but instead it was the Swedes who lined up in the St. Petersburg stadium as Group F winners with the reigning champions the first heavyweights to be knocked out of this wonderfully exciting tournament.

Their coach Janne Andersson said he felt like crying after the Swedes beat Mexico 3-0 to secure their place in the last 16. Emotions will no doubt be high again as Sweden, in their 50th World Cup match, achieved back-to-back victories for the first time since hosting the competition in 1958.

“We have a gameplan and they do not stray from it one millimeter,” said Andersson of his team, a side making up for its lack of superstars — notably Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who retired from international football after Euro 2016 — with unity and spirit.

They stuck to their tactics again against a Swiss team ranked sixth in FIFA’s rankings and, on paper at least, would have been favorites to progress.

Chances wasted

Based on the both teams’ style of play, not many expected a spectacle and neither side defied expectations.

A largely uneventful first half sparked into life in the closing stages when both Sweden and Switzerland created opportunities to break the deadlock.

Blerim Dzemaili blazed over the crossbar in the 38th minute after a series of fine one-touch passes by his teammates around the box, while minutes later Albin Ekdal was equally profligate, shooting over the bar when a header would perhaps at least have hit the target.

Ekdal’s miss was the chance of the half, but Sweden had also created opportunities early on — Marcus Berg first went wide and wild and then forced Sommer into a fine save low to his right.

The second half was even a less entertaining affair until, in the 66th minute, Emil Frosberg’s shot from the ‘D’ deflected off Manuel Akanji, leaving Sommer with little hope. Without the deflection, it would have been a comfortable save for the Swiss goalkeeper.

More to follow…