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07 Jul 2018

World Cup 2018: Sweden vs England - 3 key battles

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Harry Kane vs. Andreas Granqvist

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Kyle Walker vs. Marcus Berg 

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Jordan Pickford vs Robin Olsen

REUTERS/Michael Dalder

When he is not uniting divided nations, redefining Englishness and pioneering new fashion trends, Gareth Southgate also finds time to manage a national football team. 

This weekend, the man whose name has been written in the intersection of the Leave/Remain Venn Diagram, will lead his England side out in a World Cup quarter-final against Sweden aiming to reach the last four for the first time since 1990. 

Sweden’s wait for a semi-final appearance stretches back to 1994 when they finished third in the USA. 

With so much at stake for both teams, we look at some key battles that could decide the match.

Harry Kane vs. Andreas Granqvist

Sweden have kept three clean sheets in four games at the World Cup with now exited Germany the only side to breach their rear guard. Much of that success can be attributed to Captain Andreas Granqvist who has been imperious in defence.

REUTERS/Henry Romero

Hoping to get the better of Sweden’s rock at the back will be England skipper Harry Kane. The leading contender for the World Cup Golden Boot, Kane already has six goals to his name and put in another fine performance in the Round of 16 win over Colombia.

This result of this game could hinge on whoever comes out on top in this battle.

Kyle Walker vs. Marcus Berg 

Since England switched to a 3-5-2, Kyle Walker has looked the least uncomfortable of the three men in the setup. The transition to a role more suited to a centre back has not been easy for the Manchester City man but Gareth Southgate has kept faith in him to good effect so far. 

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Sweden will look for key areas to exploit England and will have identified Walker as the weakest of the three links in defence. The job of targeting Walker will be assigned to Al Ain striker Marcus Berg. 

Berg played a key role in their qualifying campaign, scoring eight goals, but has failed to find the net in Russia. If Sweden want to reach the last four, they will need the former IFK Goteborg and Panathinaikos man to step up on Saturday.

Jordan Pickford vs Robin Olsen

The knockout stages of an international tournament often bring goalkeepers to the fore. The demands of extra-time and a penalty shootout can stretch concentration and stamina levels to the limit, while the pressure and sense of responsibility is heightened. 

If this match goes beyond regulation time, Jordan Pickford already has that experience behind him. 

His crucial penalty save against Colombia would have given him a massive confidence boost after many still doubted his credentials as a top-level stopper. He also received praise for his incredible fingertip save that almost won the game for England in normal time.

REUTERS/Carl Recine

Robin Olsen has kept three clean sheets in four matches but has yet to endure extra-time or penalties in this tournament. If it goes down to the wire, these two men could make all the difference to the outcome.

Which key battle are you looking forward to in this game? Let us know below.