Today we have the last two matches of the second phase of the World Cup 2018 in Russia, which sees Sweden v Switzerland and Colombia v England, which are two matches that will garner a lot of interest in arguably being the most interesting of the second phase of games altogether.
Sweden impressed and thoroughly surprised everyone in the group matches by beating Mexico 3-0, narrowly losing to Germany in the game prior to that, whilst opening with a 1-0 victory over South Korea, sending them through on six points. Switzerland however, drew 1-1 against Brazil, beat Serbia 2-1, and then drew 2-2 against Costa Rica, sending them through on five points. Sweden are without right midfielder Sebastian Larsson, who was stretchered off in the last match and would be suspended today either way, but it looks like his World Cup is over due to injury. Gustav Svensson looks set to take his place, as not many Swedes would like to see Jimmy Durmaz on the pitch, after his howler of a foul to gift Germany a goal in the last gasp of the group stage match. Players that have impressed so far for Sweden have been Andreas Granqvist, Viktor Lindelof and Ludwig Agustinsson, which completes a strong defensive lines. Whereas striker Marcus Berg must be in the lead for the most missed chances in the World Cup, which isn’t surprising, as that’s what he usually does.
Ola Toivonen managed to score against Germany, but it’s safe to say that Sweden are lacking in attack, but strong in defence, whilst in midfield star playmaker Emil Forsberg doesn’t really score goals and he could have played a lot better so far in the tournament. Perhaps now is the time for the latter players in the final third to make their mark for Sweden.
Switzerland are a strong side, with Xherdan Shaqiri and Breel Embolo as ever attacking threats, however, today they are without experienced full back Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar due to suspension. This forces manager Vladimir Petkovic to make some changes, with Michael Lang and Johan Djourou set to step into the side to take their places. Granit Xhaka is a key player in midfield, but he could pick up a card or two, with him being famously known for bad tackling, so this might be something the Swedes would look to take advantage of. If Switzerland have a man sent off, it would leverage the power to Sweden. However, Sweden don’t dive, so it would have to be a genuinely bad tackle from Granit Xhaka, which we have seen before.
We expect a close match, but hopefully the game will not go to extra time, and we feel that Sweden’s strong defence may prove to be the deciding factor, as long as Sweden can get a goal.
Match Prediction: Sweden v Switzerland 1-0 or Under 2.5 Goals
Now in the other match this evening, it’s Colombia v England and one has to say that surely Gareth Southgate might regret fielding a weaker side against Belgium, where they lost 1-0, in order to face Colombia tonight. What if England won and could’ve faced Japan instead? Then surely this blame will go onto Southgate’s decision to field a second string side. Tonight, England will revet to their stronger side, seeing the return of talisman and captain Harry Kane, Jordan Henderson, Kieran Trippier, Jesse Lingard, Raheem Sterling, Ashely Young, Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire and perhaps even Dele Alli, who should be deemed fit to play in this crucial match. However, John Stones may be a doubt, after suffering a calf strain against Belgium. Gareth Southgate might field the same team that played the first match against Tunisia, with Marcus Rashford expected to start on the bench. What can be said about England so far, is that they have looked good, but with wins against Panama and Tunisia, they have yet to be really tested in this World Cup. England look set to continue with the 3-5-2 formation, with Sterling behind Harry Kane.
For Colombia, they are probably without playmaker and star man James Rodriguez which will be a huge bonus for England, but Juan Quintero and Juan Cuadrado are cut from the same silk, so Colombia have more than enough talent to cause the Three Lions problems. Plus, with Radamel Falcao finally hitting form for the South American’s, England need to be careful with him. Colombia will probably field 4-3-2-1, with Luis Muriel probably taking the place of James Rodriguez, who might feature from the bench at any point in the second half. Abel Aguilar is also out injured, so Mateus Uribe will likely continue in his place.
Anchorman Carlos Sanchez looks set to continue in midfield alongside him with Wilmar Barrios, making up the three man midfield. Yerry Mina has been a revelation in defence alongside Davinson Sanchez, keeping two clean sheets so far in this World Cup, so Harry Kane will have to his scoring boots on.
Match Prediction: Colombia v England 1-2 or Over 2.5 Goals
Story by The Narrator
Featured Photo Credit: FIFA.com