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England sink Sweden to clinch semi-final berth


England sink Sweden to clinch semi-final berth

England reached the World Cup semi-final for the first time since Italia 90 as Harry Maguire and Dele Alli struck either side of the interval to beat Sweden in Samara.

Harry Maguire and Dele Alli scored as England comfortably defeated Sweden 2-0 in Samara on Saturday (Jul 7) to reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1990. Maguire headed in the opening goal from a corner on 30 minutes, with Alli adding a second just before the hour.

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford then produced a series of crucial saves in the final half-hour to seal England’s long-awaited spot in the last four. It was just a second England victory over Sweden in nine competitive meetings, and sets up a clash with Croatia on Jul 11 in Moscow for a place in the final.

Southgate stuck with the same team that overcame Colombia on penalties in the last 16, while Sebastian Larsson returned for Sweden after missing the 1-0 win over Switzerland through suspension. Viktor Claesson drilled over for Sweden early on with an ambitious attempt from distance, while Harry Kane, the tournament’s leading scorer with six goals, dragged wide after a penetrating run by Raheem Sterling.

Sweden manager Janne Andersson had warned his side England were a match for them at set-pieces, and so it proved when Maguire connected with Ashley Young’s corner after a low-key first half hour.

Maguire outjumped the much smaller Emil Forsberg to nod low into the corner, as England scored for the eighth time in Russia from a dead-ball situation. The lively Sterling should have doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time when he brilliantly controlled Jordan Henderson’s lofted pass, but he was unable to find a way past Robin Olsen and his follow-up was blocked by Andreas Granqvist.

Pickford had relatively little to do in a quiet first half, but the England goalkeeper produced a vital stop to claw away a Marcus Berg header minutes after the restart. England promptly cranked up the pressure and pulled further ahead on 59 minutes when a completely unmarked Alli sent a thumping header past Olsen after a first-time cross by Jesse Lingard.

Maguire then lashed over after a scene of panic in the Sweden area as England chased a third goal, although they were twice indebted to Pickford for preserving their two-goal lead. The Everton shot-stopper thrust out a hand to superbly keep out Claesson’s low strike from 10 yards following a neat lay-off by Berg.

Pickford then showed terrific reflexes to tip over an effort from Berg, who shot on the turn after being picked out in the area by substitute John Guidetti. Southgate withdrew Henderson for Eric Dier in the closing stages and will have a full squad to choose from in the semi-final, injuries permitting.

Man of the match - Jordan Pickford (England)

Match stats

* The eight goals England have scored from set-pieces is the most by a team at a World Cup since Portugal in 1966 (also eight).

* Sweden have lost three of their past four matches against England, a run which follows 12 consecutive games without defeat against them between 1979 and 2006.

* Six of England's last 11 goals against Sweden have been scored via headers, all from different players (Sol Campbell, Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry, Andy Carroll, Maguire and Alli).

* England - who scored with both shots on target on Saturday - have found the net with 10 of their past 13 shots on target at this World Cup.

* England have now scored 11 goals in a World Cup for only the second time, also doing so in their victorious year of 1966.

* Alli is the second youngest player to score for England at the World Cup (22 years and 87 days), behind only Michael Owen (18 years and 190 days against Romania in 1998).

* Maguire became the first player to score their first England goal in a World Cup knockout match since Rio Ferdinand in 2002 against Denmark.

* Pickford made three saves in this match and became the youngest England goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in a World Cup match (24 years and 122 days).

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