July 09, 2018

Horse 2438 - Futbolskömmånhjöme.

Sweden 0 - England 2
Maguire 29'
Alli 58'

This sounds almost ridiculous to say as an England fan but just three hours of football now separates England from becoming champions of the world. Germany? Knocked out in the group stage. Brazil? Knocked out in the quarter finals. Italy? Never even qualified for the tournament. Yet here we are with England having posted a two-nil win against Sweden in a quarter final.

This match started out timidly as both sides kind of stared each other out like a couple of prize fighters before the first punch was thrown. England were able to press slightly higher on Sweden as England's 3-5-2 held more of an advantage in the midfield than Sweden's 4-4-2; which for probably forty years was almost like the DNA of English football. So much so that FourFourTwo magazine is the name of the highest selling football magazine in Britain.

The first parry came at twelve minutes in, when Klaerson's shot from 22 yards came like a rocket but was fired high and to the left of the goal, which didn't trouble Jordan Pickford at all.

Six minutes later after England walked the ball up at an agonizingly slow pace, Raheem Sterling broke into a sprint, dinked the ball to his inside left and past a defender but Kane's shot was a worm burner that took a deflection off of the Swedish keeper Olsen. This resulted in a corner from the left which was delivered by Ashley Young and instead of Harry Kane, it was another Harry, Harry Maguire who headed the ball downward and forcefully into the goal.

Sweden went immediately on the counter but the match soon devolved into a series of parrys  and counter parrys that neutralised each other and apart from Sweden winning two late corners, the English defence  was solid.

The second half continued in the same vein as the first but England managed to press Sweden further and further back to their own goal line until Sweden eventually conceded a corner. Tripper's ball from the right swung towards the centre of the D and bounced off of Lingard before Dele Alli cleaned up and put the ball over the line.

At this point the match was nominally safe for England but Sweden would not go down quietly. Just three minutes later and just beyond the hour mark, Klaasen evaded Henderson and had only Jordan Pickford to beat but Pickford threw out a fist and not only cleared the shot but sent it forward and didn't even concede a corner.
Berg's shot ten minutes later from just outside the 18 yard box was saved with equal skill but by that stage, Sweden were growing tired and they had nothing left to give. As the match dribbled out to its conclusion with a predictable inevitability, time seemed to grind to a halt for me. It wasn't until the final whistle that I was finally able to return to the land of regular time.

England have made it to a semifinal in only the third time in a World Cup. One of those resulted in making it to the final and total victory against West Germany and the other came to ruin against a newly reunited Germany. England will face Croatia in the semifinal while the other side of the draw has France up against Belgium. I fully expect a France v England final but this tournament has frequently given us the unexpected and so the default position of being disappointed with yet another England failure seems entirely appropriate to me. The only time that I will feel that England can win the World Cup is if they are up by five goals in the final and in extra time.

I have to say though, that making it to a semifinal does make me happy. If you expect the world and don't get it then you will be perpetually disappointed; however if you expect the worst (which given England's fifty-two years of missed opportunities, donkey strikers, goalkeepers who have howlers, referees which can be counted on to be corrupt to the eyeballs, and England remembering that they are England and being rubbish at sport) then when anything remotely positive happens, you can be pleasantly surprised.

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