England reaches World Cup semifinals for 1st time in nearly 30 years

England reaches World Cup semifinals for 1st time in nearly 30 years

England has advanced further than was widely expected after 2-0 win over Sweden

England achieved something David Beckham’s generation never managed: It reached the semifinals of the World Cup.

Harry Maguire and Dele Alli scored with headers in a 2-0 win over Sweden on Saturday, earning England’s youthful team a match against either Croatia or host nation Russia for a place in the final on July 15.

“We looked composed,” England captain Harry Kane said. “We looked like we controlled the game.”

England’s fairly muted celebrations reflected the routine nature of the victory over a hard-working Swedish side that had already gone further than expected in its first major tournament without Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

England’s deep run also is a surprise. Not even the England side containing stars like Beckham, Steven Gerrard and a young Wayne Rooney ever got this far at a major tournament.

WATCH: Ovechkin shows off the Stanley Cup at the World Cup

READ MORE: History-making 1986 team frustrated Canada hasn’t returned to World Cup

The 1966 World Cup champions last reached the semifinals in 1990, losing the first of a series of haunting penalty shootouts. In 2014, the team didn’t even make it out of the group stage.

Yet the performances of Gareth Southgate’s squad — the second youngest at the tournament — are being celebrated wildly back home. Even at Wimbledon, the home of lawn tennis, updates of England’s goals were spread by fans watching or listening to the match on their cellphones.

“I know the fans here are enjoying it,” Kane said. “The fans at home, I’m sure we’ll see some videos tonight of them enjoying it.”

The chant of “On our way, on our way, to Moscow, on our way” came from England fans in one corner of the Samara Arena throughout the match, and the team’s march to the Russian capital is being fuelled by goals from set pieces.

There was another against Sweden, with Maguire heading in a driven corner from Ashley Young in the 30th minute. It was England’s eighth set-piece goal of its 11 in Russia, and the centre back’s first in international soccer.

The standard of England’s crossing has particularly stood out this tournament, and Alli added the second goal by meeting a far-post cross from midfielder Jesse Lingard with a powerful header in the 59th. At 22, Alli became the second-youngest scorer for England at a World Cup behind Michael Owen.

“We knew set plays would be key,” Maguire said. “And also that little ball that Jesse sent in for Dele, that was great. We worked on that in practice.”

It proved to be a match too far for the Swedes, who advanced further than they ever did with Ibrahimovic — the team’s star for more than a decade — by being compact and hard to break down. That helped them win a two-leg playoff against Italy to get to the World Cup, top a group containing Germany, and then beat Switzerland in the round of 16.

They began solidly against England in a slow and sloppy start to the game that resembled a pre-season friendly at times, only to be outdone by a goal Sweden isn’t used to conceding.

“Up until that corner, I felt that we had everything under control,” Sweden coach Janne Andersson said. “I felt that we had the match in our hands.”

Although Sweden rallied in the final 30 minutes, forcing two good saves from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, England comfortably held on for its first shutout of the tournament.

Sterling’s struggles

England forward Raheem Sterling has yet to score at the World Cup from his unusual position as the support striker to Kane, and his finishing let him down against Sweden.

Set clear by Jordan Henderson’s long pass over the defence late in the first half, Sterling tried to get around Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen but was stopped. Sterling got hold of the loose ball but his shot was deflected over.

Sterling’s movement was very good, though, causing Sweden’s slow defence problems throughout. He is likely to retain his starting place for the semifinals.

Swedish tactics

Virtually from kickoff, Sweden sent long passes forward to tall striker Ola Toivonen and looked for a flick-on. It was a sign of what was to come — direct balls, long throws, pressing — but those basic tactics didn’t trouble England.

The Sweden team got in a huddle after the game and Andersson spoke to the players.

“We were sad and we’re disappointed,” Andersson said, “but we mustn’t forget we put in an excellent performance. I wanted to say that already on the pitch, too, to our players.”

Sweden last reached the World Cup semifinals in 1994, and ended up finishing third.

Steve Douglas, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sipili Molia, regional kettle manager, shows off the Salvation Army’s new contactless donation system for the 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign outside municipal hall on Dec. 1. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Tech offers hope as Salvation Army sees need skyrocket across B.C.

Charity is equipping hundreds of kettles across B.C. with ‘touchless giving technology’

Kathy MacNeil, president and chief executive officer of Island Health, Dawn Thomas, acting deputy health minister and Island Health’s vice president, Indigenous health and diversity and Chief Don Tom of Tsartlip First Nation, stand out Saanich Peninsula Hospital Tuesday morning, when they also answered questions about a new report that “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in the provincial health care system. (Island Health/Submitted)
Head of Island Health says Saanich Peninsula Hospital not part of racist guessing game

Tsartlip First Nations Chief Don Tom welcomes changes following report but promises future scrutiny

Firefighters on scene for a gas leak in the 800-block of Viewfield Road in Esquimalt on Dec. 1. (Vanessa Nicholson photo)
No injuries after vehicle strikes Esquimalt gas line

Esquimalt Fire Rescue was called to the 800-block of Viewfield Road at 5 p.m.

The Capital Regional District and the Habitat Acquisition Fund have agreed to partner on the purchase of the $3.4-million Mountain View Forest in Saanich to establish a new regional park. (Photo courtesy the Habitat Acquisition Trust)
CRD, Habitat Acquisition Trust to spend $3.4M on 20-hectare forest park in Saanich

Mountian Road Forest property to be conserved as regional park

Caroline Sousa, Bela Spick and her son Mateo marched along Prospect Lake Road in November 2019 to bring attention to the unsafe conditions on the road. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich reduces Prospect Lake Road speed limit to 30 km/h

New speed limit in effect as of Dec. 1 from Goward Road to Estelline Road

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Dave Wallace coached the Parksville Royals for 23 years. (PQB News file photo)
B.C. baseball community mourns death of legendary Vancouver Island coach Dave Wallace

‘All who knew Dave and his passion for the game will miss him greatly’

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Most Read