Dele Alli celebrates a goal during England 2-0 Sweden in the World Cup Quarter-Final match.

England 2-0 Sweden: width beats narrow block

The Three Lions used their wide players to beat a very narrow opponent to advance to the World Cup Semi-Finals, as it ended England 2-0 Sweden in Samara.

A real mix of styles came together as England used their wingbacks to overcome a resolute Swedish team. Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young were the keys to unlocking a narrow defensive block. Two goals were the result as our World Cup Quarter-Final ended England 2-0 Sweden at the Samara Arena.

Sweden’s narrow block

Sweden’s compact defensive shape has been a feature of their run to the World Cup-Quarter-Finals. The Scandinavian team repeated that formula once again. Their narrow block defended the width of the penalty area, affording space to the England wingbacks, but none through the centre.

Narrow block gives space to Trippier and Young during England 2-0 Sweden in the World Cup Quarter-Final match.

Narrow block gives space to Trippier and Young.

Against this setup, the only occasions where England could get attacks moving was firstly through turnovers up the pitch. Dele Alli stole the ball, but missed a through pass to Harry Kane, which was a good example. The second method was by way of dead balls from Jordan Pickford. Sweden was pushing a wide midfielder up to stop England playing out from the back. The resulting 4-3-3 defensive shape left them open to longer passes from Pickford over the top of it and in to the spaces.

Press of back line to test Pickford's kicking during England 2-0 Sweden in the World Cup Quarter-Final match.

Press of back line to test Pickford’s kicking.

The tactic sprung Raheem Sterling on several occasions throughout the first half, but the support striker couldn’t convert.

England’s wingback advantage

The compactness of Sweden’s shape made the start of the game very pedestrian. England was unable to open them up through the middle, but initially didn’t take the invite of a crossing based attacking through the wingbacks.

Ashley Young and Kieran Tripper were left free, but on working the ball out to them, the pair would often turn down crossing opportunities. The reason for this was that it is what Sweden wanted. Concede space in the wide areas and use their aerially strong centre backs to deal with the balls in to the box.

However, Trippier and Young were looking to create chances from two situations. The first was from shorter, lower crossing situations. The second was the long ball to isolate the full back on the far post, thus avoiding the aerially strong centre backs. It was this second type of cross that created two England goals.

England isolates the Sweden right back

England has been a revelation at set pieces during this World Cup and we took the lead from another gloriously conducted corner. The dead ball was won by looking to isolate the Swedish right back, Emil Krafth, at the back post.

Kieran Trippier was found in acres of space. Accepting Sweden’s invitation to cross, he looked for the longer ball to the back post to avoid the centre backs. The Swedish full back won the header, but gave England a corner.

Trippier in space crosses towards Krafth at the far post to win a corner during England 2-0 Sweden in the World Cup Quarter-Final match.

Trippier in space crosses towards Krafth at the far post.

The set piece was beautifully executed. The picking apart of Raheem Sterling’s marker was the basis for it. Sterling is no threat in the air and so the objective was to isolate his equally short marker, Emil Forsberg.

Kane and Maguire behind Sterling and Forsberg during England 2-0 Sweden.

Kane and Maguire behind Sterling and Forsberg.

Sterling stood still to screen not only Forsberg, but also to hinder Harry Maguire’s marker. As the ball came in, Harry Kane moved out to become a second blocker as the pair paved the way for Maguire’s delayed run.

Kane and Sterling pave the way for Maguire's run to score a goal from a corner during England 2-0 Sweden.

Kane and Sterling pave the way for Maguire’s run.

As the Swedish defenders had been forced backwards, Maguire could run around Sterling and power on to the header. Emil Forsberg stood no chance against the towering centre back.

Harry Maguire isolated against Emil Forsberg to win the header and score a goal during England 2-0 Sweden.

Harry Maguire isolated against Emil Forsberg.

The delivery from Ashley Young was pinpoint, as was the timing of Maguire’s run. His perfectly placed downward header beautifully bisected the Swedish defender and goalkeeper to nestle in the net. England with the vital first strike to take the lead.

Gaining the opening goal was crucial in this match. If England had gone behind this would’ve been an uphill battle. Taking the lead meant that the full back isolation crossing plan could remain in place.

Second isolation cross

Gaining a corner by attempting to isolate the Swedish right back on a cross saw England take the lead. Fourteen minutes after the interval and a second occurence would see a score of England 2-0 Sweden.

The build-up to the goal saw both Ashley Young and Kieran Trippier turn down crossing opportunities from open spaces out wide. However, it would be Jesse Lingard’s shorter cross that would isolate Dele Alli against right back Emil Krafth this time.

England had three vs three at the back post. Trippier’s delay and laying back of the ball to Lingard drew the Swedish defence out just enough to create space in-behind.

Lingard’s excellently weighted lofted cross picked out Dele Alli arriving at the back post, as Krafth was caught advancing and too narrow to recover.

Dele pulls beyond the full back to head home during England 2-0 Sweden.

Dele pulls beyond the full back to head home, England 2-0 Sweden.

Dele cushioned his header past goalkeeper Robin Olsen to make it England 2-0 Sweden and score his first goal at a World Cup.

The move was reminiscent of what we have seen Dele do for Spurs. Cesar Azpilicueta twice was the victim during Spurs 2-0 Chelsea.

Sweden 4-2-4

Sweden had offered very little in attack prior to going behind. Their response was a very open team that shifted from 4-4-2 to 4-2-4 in the attacking phase. Wide players Emil Forsberg and Viktor Claesson pushed up alongside strikers Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen.

Sweden pushed Claessen and Forsberg up to make a 4-2-4 formation during England 2-0 Sweden.

Sweden pushed Claessen and Forsberg up.

The formation shift created issues for England. As a result, Sweden suddenly became a threat from moving the ball quickly through the pitch and also from crosses.

Three excellent chances were created, but each time, Sweden found Jordan Pickford in their way. The England keeper twice denied Marcus Berg from crosses and thwarted Viktor Claessen on a quick counter attack.

Pickford’s saves were huge for England as they came at points in the match where a Sweden goal would’ve completely changed the flow.

Denying Berg’s header at 1-0 stopped Sweden being able to draw level and then retreat back in to their compact defensive shape. Saving from Claessen three minutes after Dele Alli’s goal gave England a confidence that might have evaporated if the score had quickly been pegged back to 2-1. The stop on Marcus Berg was a body blow. It thwarted any chance of a Swedish goal to gain momentum and set up a nervous finish like we had in conceding late to Colombia.

Pickford’s saves increased team confidence and allowed us to comfortably manage the rest of the game. The score remained at England 2-0 Sweden. Bring on a World Cup Semi-Final with Croatia!

England 2-0 Sweden overall

A serious amount of planning had gone in to this match. The isolation of the Swedish full backs on crosses was a clever way to accept the space being given out wide, but also to not fall in to the trap of picking out their centre backs.

The set piece routine for Harry Maguire’s goal was a variation on what we’ve seen so far, but extremely smart. Isolating Raheem Sterling’s shorter marker and using Harry Kane as a blocking decoy after all the attention defenders have been giving him allowed Maguire to thunder in and score.

There were many good performances after a difficult 120 minutes and penalties against Colombia. Kieran Trippier, Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson stood out. However, Jordan Pickford’s saves were absolutely vital in England being able to stay on top and make this match much more comfortable than it could’ve been.

Final score: England 2-0 Sweden.
MOTM: Jordan Pickford.

If you enjoyed this post, please share:

, ,

7 Responses to England 2-0 Sweden: width beats narrow block

  1. Mark from Virginia 8th July 2018 at 3:18 pm #

    Hi Mark,
    I’m enjoying your World Cup game analysis series – thanks for that! The England team is a joy to watch, I feel like I’m watching Spurs. The way the team carries itself and manages the game makes me think that Southgate chose so many Spurs players not only for their form but more so for their attitude- for which Ponch deserves credit. What a revelation!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 8th July 2018 at 5:32 pm #

      Hi Mark, I think the bond developing between the players both on and off the pitch is really helping fuel the team. It’s a lot like Spurs where the sum of the parts is greater than the individuals, and there are some talented individuals. Gareth Southgate is doing an excellent job, but daily access to coaches like Poch, Guardiola and Klopp is really helping the lads take their games to the next level.

      I think we have the talent and firepower to beat Croatia. My only concern is Henderson being left isolated and getting overrun by Rakitic and Modric. I think their last two games have shown they are definitely beatable, especially at set pieces where Lovren and Vida are susceptible aerially. For me it has to be an up tempo game to test how much they have left in their legs after back-to-back extra times.

      • Carrigbawn 8th July 2018 at 8:38 pm #

        Do you think Southgate should tinker with the line up to counter the threat from Rakitic & Modric, Mark? Starting with Dier alongside Henderson? Perhaps leaving Sterling, or Deli, on the bench to come on if we go behind?

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 8th July 2018 at 11:20 pm #

          I think he’ll stick with the same team as they are the ones who have got us this far. However I would like to see us go 3-4-3 and have Dier alongside Henderson with Jesse Lingard or Dele making way.

    • Cheshuntboy 8th July 2018 at 9:04 pm #

      Well, if you enjoy back-passing, back-peddling and slowly-slowly football, that’s your choice, but it’s not the Tottenham tradition, and what Arthur Rowe, Bill Nicholson or Danny Blanchflower would have made of England’s pedestrian performance against a team of Championship level geriatrics, God knows. And people think it’s great football!

  2. Toby4eva 10th July 2018 at 12:23 pm #

    Nice work again Mark.

    Certainly not spectacular, but the spectacular teams have largely been eliminated, and another one will have gone by the time England face Croatia.

    England are playing to their limited strengths – and executing brilliantly.

    Of their 12 goals I think 10 or 11 have come from set pieces or penalties.

    Italy played elimination football successfully for decades and everyone lauded them for doing exactly what England are doing now.

    Importantly England have only conceded one (late) goal in the last 220-odd minutes of open play – so again, thoughts of the Azzurri come to mind. A previously much-maligned English defence are really doing their job.

    And Pickford – for all non-Toffee supporters, has been a revelation.

    Agree the semi final will be decided in midfield and Modders simply has to be shut down.

    Trivia time.

    1. Has one club provided three World Cup semi final captains (as past or present players) in the same tournament?

    2. If England and France play the final – it surely must be the first time that opposing captains will come from the same club team.

    3. If England play Belgium, has one club ever supplied 8 current players in the final two squads?


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th July 2018 at 12:42 pm #

      As you rightly put, England have been playing excellent tournament football. We haven’t scored enough from open play, but that’s not to say we haven’t been creating chances. So, if we can finally convert a few then we’ll be very difficult to contain.

      Very good trivia questions and i doubt that there has been a World Cup, which wasn’t in the early years with 12 or so teams, where one club has supplied so many players in the final stages. It really is testament to what great work Poch is doing!