England in final four after overcoming Sweden
Gareth Southgate has guided England to their first World Cup semi-final for 28 years (pic: SNS Group)
Sweden 0 England 2
England can continue to dream after easing past Sweden to book their place in a World Cup semi-final for the first time since 1990.
The Three Lions picked the perfect occasion to record their first clean sheet of the tournament, producing arguably their best performance under Gareth Southgate.
Their semi-final opponents will be Croatia who beat the hosts Russia 4-3 on penalties after their quarter-final finished 1-1 in normal time and 2-2 after extra time.
It was a surprisingly comfortable victory for England, and one which looked rarely in doubt after Harry Maguire’s first-half header on 30 minutes gave them the foothold in the tie they had been looking for.
The Leicester centre-half’s effort came from a corner by Ashley Young, one of a number of set pieces which caused the Swedes problems throughout the match.
Dele Alli doubled the advantage with another headed goal, this time the Spurs man nodding home a cross from Jesse Lingard after 58 minutes.
Everton keeper Jordan Pickford was rarely troubled by the Sweden attack and when he was called into action, he was up to the task, producing key saves at vital times.
He first denied Marcus Berg moments after the interval with a terrific save down to his left and then did well to stop a powerful drive from Viktor Claesson 10 minutes later.
After his penalty-kick heroics against Colombia, there’s no doubt he has cemented his place as his country’s No. 1.
“I wasn’t born the last time England reached a World Cup semi-final,” he said.
“We have always said we would take one game at a time and we can go on and create our own history.
“We knew it was going to be difficult, we know what Sweden bring to the party and we managed it very well. After I made that first save from Marcus Berg with the header that was me set for the rest of the game.”
Apart from Raheem Sterling’s lack of killer instinct in front of goal – he could have scored at least two on another day – it is hard to fault any aspect of England’s performance..
This is only the third time England have made it into the last four of a World Cup, the only other occasion apart from 28 years ago coming in 1966.
Captain Harry Kane said: “I thought we were fantastic. We faced the long ball – different to what we have faced before and we’re buzzing with the result.
“We know there is a big game ahead with the semi-final but we are feeling good and we’re confident. We just have to go again. We are enjoying it and we’ve got keep doing what we are doing and make the country proud.”
England: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Henderson (Dier, 85), Trippier, Lingard, Alli (Delph, 77), Young, Sterling (Rashford, 91), Kane.
Goals: Maguire, Dele Alli.