Sweden are through to the last eight of the World Cup after a scrappy 1-0 win over Switzerland thanks to an even scrappier Emil Forsberg goal.
Here are five things we learned from the game in St Petersburg…
In the build-up to this Round of 16 clash, it was made clear to Granit Xhaka that Sweden would be targeting him as a weak link in their midfield that they could rile. He has a hot head and a tendency to jump into clumsy tackles and Sweden wanted to take advantage of that.
As is too often with Xhaka though, those warnings went unheard in the opening minutes as he clattered into an early tackle, giving away a foul and was then caught in possession far too often as he tried to compose himself. He did manage to keep his head when, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, all those around him (Valon Behrami) lost theirs, for a while until he decided to scythe down Victor Clasesson immediately after Forsberg’s goal.
Shaqiri: Stoke’s or Switzerland’s?
So far in this tournament, Xherdan Shaqiri has looked anything but a footballer who was relegated with Stoke City. His last-minute winner against Serbia was a fantastic show of pace and composure and he has been the chief playmaker is so many of Switzerland’s attacks in Russia.
There were a couple of runs and one particularly dangerous cross against Sweden but for the most part, he had briefly returned to his form with Stoke. Too often he was inefficient in possession although that could also be a critique of the Swiss as a whole, who struggles to get the ball to him ultimately cost them.
Berg’s woes contagious
When your centre back, not your centre forward is your top scorer with two goals going into a last-16 tie, then you know you have a problem. When your centre-back and your centre forward is your penalty taker as well, then you can see why. Sweden’s Marcus Berg has had a torrid World Cup in front of goal.
Too many times has he found himself guilty of wasting golden chances in the group stages and when his right-footed effort was shanked high and wide before Albin Edkal skied the best chance of the game, it looked like it was one of those days for Sweden. A deflection was always going to be the likeliest way for them to score.
Forsberg arrives in Russia
Forsberg was touted as the one to take over Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s mantle as Sweden’s star player this summer but had so far unimpressed and failed to have the sort of impact that he has with RB Leipzig which has led to interest from Liverpool and Arsenal, amongst others.
And it was more of the same until his deflected shot looped into the top corner in the 66th-minute of the game in St Petersburg. He grew after that and became an outlet for Sweden. Will this goal instil the sort of confidence to launch his World Cup?
It will be England or Colombia, depending on the result of the final Round of 16 game – but will either side be worried by what they’ve seen here in St Petersburg? Probably not.
Knockout games are always cagey but Sweden’s finishing was so poor that it was always going to take a wild deflection to see them score. Should England qualify, John Stones, Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire will not be too concerned by Berg et al.
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