World Cup 2018, Round Of 16, Sweden vs Switzerland Preview: Dour European Battle On The Cards

Updated: 02 July 2018 14:44 IST

Sweden and Switzerland will be engaged in another typical European clash for a quarter-final slot.

World Cup 2018, Round Of 16, Sweden vs Switzerland Preview: Dour European Battle On The Cards
The Sweden vs Switzerland match will be played at the St. Petersburg Stadium. © Reuters

No Zlatan Ibrahimovic, no problem for Sweden. Shorn of a superstar since Ibrahimovic's retirement, Sweden were not expected even to make it to the World Cup but now they are within reach of their first quarter-final for 24 years. After eliminating the Netherlands and Italy in qualifying, Sweden played their part in sending defending champions Germany home early by topping Group F with victories over South Korea and Mexico. Sweden will aim for a quarter-final spot when they face Switzerland in their Round of 16 clash at Saint Petersburg Stadium on Tuesday.

In keeping with his squad, no-frills coach Janne Andersson is not a big name, having spent his entire playing and coaching career in his homeland.

But the 55-year-old is credited with creating the collective spirit that has helped Sweden thrive despite a lack of standout individual talent.

"Sweden are definitely thriving as a collective right now, the like of which we have not seen since 1994," when they reached the World Cup semi-finals, Swedish football journalist Kristopher Karlsson told AFP.

Sweden have now gone as far as they ever did with Ibrahimovic at a World Cup and could go much further in a wide open half of the draw.

Beat Switzerland and they will face England or Colombia, with Croatia or Russia waiting as potential semi-final opponents.

"People are delighted with getting this far but beating the teams we've beaten thus far and in qualifying, people think this World Cup is far from over for Sweden," said Karlsson.

Switzerland have made headlines in Russia for their players' controversial goal celebrations but the team stands on the verge of matching their best-ever run at a World Cup.

If Vladimir Petkovic's side beat Sweden in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday, they will become the first Swiss team in 64 years to qualify for the quarter-finals of football's biggest tournament.

Although they have largely gone under the radar in Russia -- double-eagle scoring celebrations against Serbia aside against -- the unheralded team are enjoying an impressive tournament.

Marshalled by skipper Stephan Lichtsteiner, driven by Valon Behrami's energy, and able to call on Xherdan Shaqiri's creativity, Switzerland emerged from a tricky Group E that included tournament favourites Brazil.

They are unbeaten in Russia, have scored in every game and a defeat against Portugal last October is the only blemish in an impressive run of results over the past two years.

The last time Switzerland reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup, in 1954, they were hosts and the 16-team tournament was a very different beast -- they lost their last-eight clash to Austria 7-5 after being three up early on.

But as they look to match or even better that showing, there is a significant cloud on the horizon for the Sweden match.

Switzerland's defence have excelled so far but will be without key defenders Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schaer against Sweden after both picked up two yellow cards in the group stage.

Between them, Arsenal new boy Lichtsteiner and Schaer have played more than 150 times for the country.

Lichtsteiner was one of three players who escaped with a fine -- Shaqiri and Arsenal's Granit Xhaka were the others -- after their politically motivated celebrations in the 2-1 win against Serbia.

Switzerland and Sweden have not met since 2002 so there are recent no indications of who could have the edge on Tuesday.

(With AFP inputs)

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Topics : Sweden Switzerland 2018 FIFA World Cup Football Sweden vs Switzerland, Round of 16 FIFA
Highlights
  • Sweden and Switzerland will be engaged in another typical European clash
  • Switzerland are on the verge of matching their best-ever run at World Cup
  • Switzerland and Sweden have not met since 2002
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