Con­fi­dent Eng­land reach first World Cup semi-fi­nal in 28 years

Stabroek News Sunday - - SPORT -

(Reuters photo) SA­MARA, Rus­sia, (Reuters) - Eng­land de­fied al­most three decades of dis­ap­point­ment to move con­fi­dently into the World Cup semi-fi­nals for the first time since 1990 as head­ers from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli downed a dogged but tooth­less Swe­den 2-0 yes­ter­day. Far more fan­cied Eng­land sides had failed to reach the last four in the past but Gareth South­gate’s young squad pow­ered on as they con­tin­ued to make a mock­ery of damp­ened pre-tour­na­ment ex­pec­ta­tions with an­other im­pres­sive dis­play in Rus­sia. They were set on their way when Maguire rose im­pe­ri­ously to head home from a cor­ner and Alli added the killer blow after the break as Eng­land showed they are not en­tirely de­pen­dent on the tour­na­ment’s lead­ing scorer Harry Kane for goals.

If any­thing, Eng­land’s hero on the day was to be found at the other end of the pitch as ‘keeper Jor­dan Pick­ford pro­duced three su­perb saves to shut out the work­man­like Swedes.

“We had to with­stand a lot of phys­i­cal pres­sure,” said Eng­land coach Gareth South­gate. “The re­silience of the team and to­geth­er­ness of the team to­day was cru­cial. To­day our spirit was as good as theirs and our qual­ity a lit­tle bit bet­ter.” The fans who ser­e­naded their side at the Sa­mara Arena stayed long after full­time to her­ald the achieve­ment, know­ing that with so many of the favourites hav­ing de­parted, Eng­land have ar­guably their best chance of global glory in more than half a cen­tury. While Eng­land’s vic­tory, only their third quar­ter-fi­nal suc­cess in nine at­tempts, was largely a one-sided af­fair it was cer­tainly not straight­for­ward. Swe­den had reached the quar­ter-fi­nals by mak­ing life hard for sup­pos­edly su­pe­rior op­po­si­tion and it was easy to see why after a dour open­ing when Eng­land looked in­ca­pable of string­ing passes to­gether against their hard­work­ing op­po­nents. (Reuters) Printed and pub­lished daily by Guyana Publi­ca­tions Inc 46/47 Robb Street, La­cy­town, Ge­orge­town. Tel 226-7206, 226-2333, 227-4080, 226-2515, 225-4637

It was pre­dictable in many ways, there­fore, that the dead­lock was bro­ken from a set piece.

BUL­LET HEADER

Eng­land had laboured with­out re­ward be­fore Ash­ley Young lined up a cor­ner on the left and his curled ef­fort was met by Maguire charg­ing for­ward with con­vic­tion and barg­ing Emil Fors­berg out of his way to power a header down into the net.

That was Eng­land’s eighth set-piece goal at this World Cup, but, while they are lethal from dead balls, apart from Kane they are not blessed with too many other sharp shooters.

For­ward Ra­heem Ster­ling has faced some crit­i­cism over his strug­gles to score for Eng­lan­dand just be­fore half­time his doubters were handed am­mu­ni­tion when he was twice left alone to bear down on Swe­den keeper Robin Olsen.

His blushes were saved by the lines­man’s flag as he fluffed the first chance, but mo­ments later he ran through again, this time try­ing to round the keeper, only to be de­nied once more.

Eng­land were al­most made to pay straight after the in­ter­val and would have been pegged back if Pick­ford had not pro­duced a top-drawer save to keep out a Mar­cus Berg header.

The im­por­tance of the goal­keeper’s con­tri­bu­tion was swiftly un­der­lined with Eng­land dou­bling their lead in the 59th minute as Jesse Lin­gard’s teas­ing cross into the box was met by Alli un­marked at the far post to head pow­er­fully past Olsen.

Eng­land had not kept a clean sheet in their four pre­vi­ous matches and had Pick­ford to thank for en­sur­ing they did not con­cede this time.

He saved su­perbly from Vik­tor Claes­son be­fore tip­ping a shot from Berg over the bar and that was enough to en­sure Swedish hopes of reach­ing their first semi-fi­nal since 1994 were dashed.

“I wasn’t born the last time Eng­land reached a World Cup semi­fi­nal,” said Pick­ford. “We have al­ways said we would take one game at a time and we can go on and cre­ate our own his­tory.”

Croa­tia’s Ivan Rakitic scores the win­ning goal in the penalty shootout which ended 4-3 in their favour.

Eng­land’s Dele Alli rises up to head home their sec­ond goal.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Guyana

© PressReader. All rights reserved.