World Cup 2018: Sweden vs Switzerland – Lineups, Preview & Prediction
Two World Cup dark horses make a race for the quarter-finals in this battle of the European underdogs.
15:00 BST, Tuesday 3rd July, St. Petersburg Stadium (St. Petersburg, Russia) BBC One
After preventing both Holland and Italy from booking their ticket to Russia, Sweden saw off the challenge of Germany to make their way through Group F.
An unfancied team before the tournament began, Janne Andersson’s side are developing a habit for upsetting the odds. This match will see a much more level playing field with another of the World Cup’s dark horses lying in wait.
While Switzerland’s progression to the knockouts has not been a total surprise, they are viewed as one of the weaker sides left in the competition. Despite this perception, they are one of the top-three highest ranked teams left in Russia.
With the winner to be presented with an easier route to the final than they would have dared imagine just over two weeks ago, everything is still to play for in this all-European encounter.
Last Time Out
Mexico 0-3 Sweden
Following a disappointingly limp defeat to Germany, Sweden bounced back in impressive fashion to seal their place at the top of their group. This was the countries largest winning margin at the World Cup for 24 years when they beat Bulgaria 4-0.
Despite being the more dominant team during the opening half, Sweden missed several chances to take the lead.
A swift counter-attack just after the interval led to Ludwig Augustinsson breaking the deadlock and putting his side firmly in charge of the game.
With Sweden growing in confidence, Andreas Granqvist’s penalty and then an own-goal from Edson Alvarez strengthened the result which fully reflected the difference between the two teams.
Switzerland 2-2 Costa Rica
Only requiring a single point to assure their qualification to the latter stages, it was mission accomplished for the Swiss despite some last-minute drama which denied them victory.
Costa Rica may have come into the game already eliminated, but they played with a freedom which saw them have the better start. A goal from Blerim Dzemaili gave the Swiss the lead against the run of play, slamming the ball into the net from a quick attack down the right wing.
After Kendall Waston had equalised in the second half, Josip Drmic restored Switzerland’s advantage in the 88th minute, seemingly winning them the match. Costa Rica were then awarded a penalty in the dying seconds only for VAR to overrule the decision.
With time ticking away, another penalty for Costa Rica saw them snatch a draw and exit the competition with a point and a sense of pride.
Sebastian Larsson is suspended after picking up yellow cards against Germany and then Mexico. Gustav Svensson is the midfielder most likely to step in and deputise for him, but no other changes are likely with Janne Andersson’s side.
Vladimir Petković faces a greater suspension problem to negotiate with his team selection. Both right-sided defenders, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar, are ineligible for this match.
Michael Lang of Borussia Mönchengladbach will come in at right-back while Johan Djourou could slot into central midfield alongside Manuel Akanji.
Key Battle: Emil Forsberg (Sweden) vs Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)
He may have just endured a tough season with RB Leipzig, but Forsberg blazed his name into the country’s conscience the previous season. The 26-year-old left winger was directly involved in 30 league goals and showed an eye for goal which was adept as his obvious skill.
As one of the biggest stars currently in the Bundesliga, Forsberg now has the chance to let the whole world see his talents, though he’s under-performed thus far at the World Cup.
Another player looking to showcase his abilities is currently looking for a new club. Following Stoke City’s relegation, Shaqiri is being strongly linked with many of the game’s highest-profile clubs.
A big performance for his country will see his reputation enhanced further, but there will only be one future aim on his mind when he enters the Krestovsky Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.
A team beaten by Brazil at the World Cup of 1958, Sweden are not commonly thought of as having any heritage in football’s major tournament. Now making their first appearance at the finals since 2006 and without the enigmatic figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they have been quickly dismissed from the reckoning by most onlookers.
The performance against Mexico uncovered the steely belief which runs through this current iteration of the national team though. Yet, still there is little in the way of chest-beating emanating from anyone connected to the country.
As a population who are better known for moderation over excess, this quiet confidence is unlikely to be stirred if their ascent through the World Cup continues. It is this mentality of ‘laget om,’ for the team, which could prove to be their secret weapon in Russia.
Balancing the Swiss equation
Xherdan Shaqiri may be the main threat in the Switzerland team but he can’t lead them to glory alone. To provide balance to his right-wing forays, Vladimir Petkovic has perhaps his biggest decision to make in who begins on the left.
With regular first-choice, Admir Mehmedi, left out of the 23-man squad due to a foot injury, two candidates have emerged to fill the role.
Steven Zuber appears to be in pole position, largely thanks to his goal in the opening match of the tournament, though Breel Embolo of Schalke has also staked a compelling claim to be included.
The 21-year-old has been plagued by injury in recent seasons, but is one of his countries brightest prospects. Zuber himself has just recovered from the fever which saw him miss the Costa Rica match, but with both players now fit for selection, a healthy dilemma awaits the attacking positions.
Prediction: Sweden 2-1 Switzerland
This match may lack the celebrity appeal which many other games bring to the latter stages of the World Cup, but it could prove to be one of the more competitive matches.
Both sides have a strong physical presence and have built their teams around a defensive foundation. With Switzerland forced into restructuring their defence, Sweden could edge this match, again profitting at the expense of a team expected to beat them.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss all the action from Day 15 of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.