Sweden vs England Preview: Both nations aiming for first 21st century World Cup semi-final

Sweden vs England Preview: Both nations aiming for first 21st century World Cup semi-final

England's recent record against Sweden is less than pretty as the two nations meet in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Matt Dawson

From Joe Cole's volley in Cologne to Olof Mellberg's header in Kyiv to Zlatan Ibrahimovic's outrageous bicycle kick from range, there have been some outstanding football memories in meetings between England and Sweden

It's a fixture which never lacks drama but the two nations haven't met for six years. They now collide again. The prize? A place in the World Cup semi-finals.

For Sweden, they have exceeded expectations in Russia. England, meanwhile, are about where they should be - depending on who you talk to.

The Swede's haven't reached the semi-final of the World Cup since 1994 whilst England's wait has been even longer. Their last semi-final appearance was in 1990. For one nation, that wait will come to an end on Saturday. 

England end penalty hurt

With Gareth Southgate's side heading into penalties in their last 16 match, the English public would have feared the worst. Before Tuesday night, England had never won a World Cup penalty shoot-out.

However, there is something different about this team. They feel as though they want to rewrite history, and with a first knock-out win since 2006 and a first World Cup penalty shoot-out win they are starting to do so. 

England's campaign so far has been a test of resolve, and they've passed most tests with flying colours. Against Tunisia in the opening game, they had to get over decisions that went against them before scoring in injury time to win the game. 

Panama was far more straightforward. Six goals and a hat-trick for star man Harry Kane was the order of the day. 

Against Belgium, there were wholesale changes. They lost 1-0 but with arguably an easier shot of reaching the final. 

The match with Colombia was anything but easy. England controlled proceedings well. Another Kane spot-kick sent them in front, but up stepped Yerry Mina who headed home in the dying embers. 

Extra time was scoreless but Jordan Pickford was the hero for England as they won on penalties. 

Colombia were an aggressive side and a tough test in their own right. Sweden, however, will be a different proposition. 

Physical Sweden a test for anyone

Janne Andersson has got this Sweden team playing in a compact and physical manner which is no real surprise given Swedish team's gone by.

None of their performances have been breathtaking but they've been hugely professional, showing a great togetherness to get this far in the competition. 

Their road to this stage of the World Cup has seen them keep three clean-sheets in four games, whilst also giving Germany a run for their money.

However, good teamwork can only get you so far. There has been a strong core of individuals who have also helped along the way. Emil Forsberg is growing into the tournament whilst captain Andreas Granqvist has been exceptional in defence. Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen have meanwhile been industrious in attack despite a lack of goals.

There are no world class stars but they beat France, Netherlands and Italy en route to qualifying for Russia so that proves what they're made of.

Wins over South Korea, Mexico and a last 16 victory over Switzerland has seen them earn the right to play England and you can be assured that they'll be difficult to break down again this weekend.

Three Lions poor record 

If the World Cup had gone according to the seedings then England would have been playing Germany on Saturday. Instead, they face their bogey team, Sweden. 

Since the 1960s, England have only beaten Sweden twice in 15 meetings. The last time they faced each other was in 2012 and Ibrahimovic scored four goals in a 4-2 win. He isn't part of the Swedish camp anymore and that will probably be some relief for England.

They had also met previously at the European Championships in the same year. England were victorious on that occasion but they did go behind in the game before eventually winning 3-2. 

The pair played each other the last time Sweden qualified for a World Cup in 2006, too. The group stage meeting was a terrific match as twice the Swede's came from behind as it finished 2-2. 

Following England's win over Colombia, Southgate was all too aware of their recent record: "Now I'm thinking about Sweden," he said. "They are another team we have a poor record against. We have underestimated them for years," the England boss explained. 

Team news

England will welcome back Fabian Delph after he traveled home to witness the birth of his third child. In the opposing camp, Granqvist missed his wife give birth to their second child in order to prepare for the game with England.

Southgate is likely to be without Jamie Vardy because of a groin strain but Ashley Young is expected to be fit following a knock to the ankle against Colombia. 

Jesse Lingard, Jordan Henderson, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Kyle Walker will all have to be careful as they are a yellow card away from suspension and could miss a possible semi-final. 

For Sweden, Mikael Lustig is out through accumulating too many yellow cards but Sebastian Larsson is back after sitting out a game having also had a suspension.