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Sweden 0-2 England: Young Lions Roar

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
567   //    08 Jul 2018, 11:05 IST

Harry Maguire and John Stones celebrate England's first goal.
Harry Maguire and John Stones celebrate England's first goal.

Go back 3 weeks. There was little optimism about what these young lions could achieve, heading into a tournament that bears household names such as Neymar, Ronaldo, and Messi. The teams in the tournament were simply stronger and better equipped, Spain's "Tiki-taka" brand, Russia's "Host Factor", Germany's "Defending Champs" title, plus many more, deemed to be, simply put, better.

But fast forward three weeks and the lions are roaring at their loudest in 28 years. They're defying the odds, exceeding expectations and have already done better than all three of those aforementioned teams.

Quarter-finals saw England line-up against a bullish and stubborn Swedish team. The lack of a talisman was certainly made up by work rate and determination. For the first half an hour, England was kept at bay. Sterling's deep runs caused minor problems, but the threat was nothing serious, and defiant game-plan was in full swing, and it was working.

But, cometh the (half) hour, cometh the man. Harry... (no, not that one), Harry Maguire thudded home a leaping header, courtesy of a blend of some lapse-daisy zonal marking and a pinpoint Ashley Young corner. Sweden had switched off, and England took their chance.

Seemingly rocked by going a goal down, the Swedes faltered and England gathered momentum, attacks were relentless, and the young lions were purring. Jordan Pickford was called into action producing some eye-catching saved within the first 15 minutes of the restart. With every save Pickford gained confidence, and there was a sense that it was infectious amongst the England camp. Whether it be a Jordan Henderson producing a potentially game-changing block from close-range, or a Harry Maguire bullying Sweden's Marcus Berg.


Jordan Pickford tips a Sweden effort around the post.
Jordan Pickford tips a Sweden effort around the post.

England was back, and optimism was in the air, like so many games before this. Kieran Trippier has been dominant down the right-hand side for England for the entirety of the World Cup. He slid the ball through to Jesse Lingard, who whipped a dangerous cross into the 6-yard box. The man on the end of that cross? Dele Alli. It was a familiar sight for England fans, another header, another goal.


Alli celebrates scoring England's second goal of the game.
Alli celebrates scoring England's second goal of the game.

Prior to the game, Dele Alli's performances were under scrutiny, and the question was being asked - Did he warrant a place in the first 11? The doubters were silenced, and Alli had arrived. From that point on, England didn't look back. A fearless England performance shone through right to the end. Where other teams may have played it safe and kept the ball, England attacked and was hell-bent on getting a third.

It wasn't to be. But Southgate's boys had become men. They had made it to the World Cup semi-finals.

Player ratings:

Sweden: Olsen (6), Krafth (5), Lindelof (5), Granqvist (6), Augustinsson (5), Larsson (6), Ekdal (6), Forsberg (5), Claesson (6), Berg (5), Toivonen (5)

Subs: Guidetti (6), Martin Olsson (5), Jansson (N/A)

England: Pickford (9), Walker (7), Stones (7), Maguire (9), Trippier (7), Lingard (7), Henderson (7), Alli (7), Young (7), Sterling (7), Kane (7)

Subs: Delph (N/A), Dier (N/A), Rashford (N/A)

Man of the match: Harry Maguire



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CONTRIBUTOR
Freelance sports journalist. University of Derby Alumni. Views are my own.
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