Get the lowdown on England's World Cup quarter-final opponents.
1. Emil Forsberg the danger man
Sweden’s stylish playmaker has been key to RB Leipzig’s rise in the Bundesliga, but hasn’t shown that form in Russia this summer – yet. A stroke of luck might change that, though, as it was his deflected strike which decided the last-16 clash against Switzerland. Could that be the moment which sparks his tournament into life?
At his best, the 26-year-old (who has previously been linked to Liverpool and Arsenal) is actually the type of player England lack. He’s a cerebral creative midfielder who can pick a pass and unpick a defence – as his remarkable haul of 20 Bundesliga assists in 2016/17 demonstrated (eight more than the next-best player).
If Sweden are going to score from open play, expect Forsberg to be central to their cause. Starving him of time and space will likely be part of Gareth Southgate’s game plan.
2. They’re tough nuts to crack
Key to Sweden’s success has been their defensive organisation and discipline, which might just remind you of a certain Nordic team at Euro 2016 whose name we won’t mention. The Swedes have kept three clean sheets in four games in Russia, blocking out South Korea, Mexico and Switzerland. The only two goals they’ve conceded have been against Germany, and one of those was that stunning Toni Kroos free-kick.
Centre-backs Andreas Granqvist and Victor Lindelof are having an excellent tournament, and Sweden are unlikely to be caught out by England’s pace on the break. Defending deep and keeping their shape is more their style than pressing high.
While Sweden will test Harry Kane & Co. physically, they’re unlikely to lose their heads in the way Panama and Colombia did at times. England will have to craft their openings rather than expect Sweden to crack under pressure.
3. Opportunities to exploit at right-back
Celtic’s Michael Lustig will be suspended for this game after being booked in Monday’s slender win over Switzerland. Sweden will therefore lack the 70-cap 31-year-old’s vast experience, and will probably turn to Bologna’s Emil Krafth in his stead.
The 23-year-old hasn’t started a game for the Scandinavians at Russia 2018 yet, though, and only played eight minutes of the Swiss game as a late replacement for Lustig.
Krafth has started 10 games for his country since 2014 and is highly rated, but barely played for Bologna in the second half of last season and is a clear second choice for his country. England will aim to capitalise on that inexperience in such a big game.
4. They’re demonstrating fruits of youth
Back in 2015, Sweden became surprise U21 European Championship winners when they beat a Portugal side starring the likes of Raphael Guerreiro, Joao Mario, Bernardo Silva and William Carvalho.
Three years on, six of the youngsters who started that final have made it to Russia 2018, and two of them – Victor Lindelof and Ludwig Augustinsson – will definitely make up half of the back four looking to keep England at bay in Samara.
Euro 2016 was too early for them, but their development in the three years since that triumph has been terrific. In 2015, Sweden’s youngsters came through a hideous group that also featured Portugal, Italy and England – then hammered neighbours Denmark 4-1 in the semi-finals. They’re made of tough stuff.
5. Wily Andersson has history of upsets
Boss Janne Andersson got Sweden’s top job after Euro 2016 because of the fine work he’d managed at Norrkoping. The minnows were almost relegated from the Allsvenskan in his first season of 2011, but by 2015 the club was launching the sensational title bid which toppled Malmo. Bereft of stars and major financial backing, Andersson crafted a terrific team that won the club’s first title since 1989 – and earned him widespread recognition.
The 55-year-old has had to rebuild this Swedish team after a hopeless Euros where they finished bottom of their group and scored only once. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andreas Isaksson and Kim Kallstrom retired after that tournament, but in their places are young, hungry players who are amounting to greater than the sum of their parts. Clearly, Andersson has a knack for this.