A deflected goal from Emil Forsberg in the second half was enough to earn Sweden a 1-0 victory over Switzerland in their FIFA World Cup round of 16 clash in St. Petersburg.
The Swedes were hoping to reach the last eight of the World Cup for the first time since 1994, while the Swiss hadn’t reached the quarter finals since they hosted the tournament in 1954. Both sides had good reason to be confident – the Swiss held Brazil to a 1-1 draw in the group stage, while the Swedes came desperately close to achieving the same feat against holders Germany.
However, the Swiss didn’t look at all confident at the back in the opening exchanges. They had failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their group matches, and it showed. In fact, they could have been 2-0 down in the first ten minutes if Marcus Berg and Albin Ekdal had been more clinical. Instead, Berg sliced his shot horribly wide, and Ekdal fired over the bar.
It wasn’t surprising to see the Swedes sitting back and allowing the Swiss to keep possession – Janne Andersson’s side had enjoyed very little of the ball against either Germany or Mexico. However, like the Germans and Mexicans before them, Switzerland struggled to create any clear opportunities. Steven Zuber headed wide from Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross midway through the half, and Blerim Dzemaili could only fire over the bar after good work by Zuber on the left.
That was as close as the Swiss came to scoring in the first half, but the Swedes had far better chances to take the lead. Yann Sommer had to make a superb diving save to deny Berg, and Ekdal squandered a golden opportunity in the 41st minute. Mikael Lustig produced an excellent cross from the right, only to see Ekdal shoot high over the bar from close range.
Throughout the first half, Shaqiri looked the likeliest player to unlock the stubborn Swedes with a moment of magic. Yet it never came, and the match remained goalless at half time. The scoreline was a fair reflection of the game, and of both sides’ lack of quality in the final third of the pitch.
Both sides showed rather more perspiration than inspiration, and when Sweden opened the scoring in the 66th minute, it owed far more to Swiss misfortune than Swedish brilliance. Emil Forsberg’s strike from outside the penalty area would likely have been saved by Sommer, but it took a wicked deflection off Manuel Akanji’s outstretched foot, leaving the Switzerland keeper with no chance.
It was slightly harsh on the Swiss, who had put the Swedes under intense pressure in the second half. However, they barely tested Olsen, as most of their shots were blocked. Sweden did have a few nervous moments – not least when Andreas Granqvist had to make a last ditch clearance in the 80th minute – but the Swiss rarely looked like scoring.
In fact, the Swedes came closer to doubling their lead, testing Sommer from a free kick with their last kick of the game. By that point, Switzerland’s misery had been compounded by Michael Lang’s deserved red card for a professional foul.
All in all, the match was very far from being a classic, but the Swedes won’t care about that. Either Colombia or England will await them in the quarter-final.