SOCHI, Russia — An increasingly confident Sweden is relishing the prospect of a World Cup quarterfinal clash against England after displaying the best of its battling qualities in a 1-0 win over Switzerland in Tuesday’s Round of 16 tie.
English football is hugely popular in the Scandinavian country but the well-drilled Swedes will not be overawed when it faces a team packed with Premier League stars who beat Colombia on penalties after a 1-1 draw Tuesday.
„Bring them on. Most of them have respect for us and we feel secure regardless of who we meet,“ striker Marcus Berg told reporters as he looked ahead to the last-eight encounter in Samara Saturday.
Winger Emil Forsberg, whose deflected goal earned Sweden a first World Cup quarterfinal berth since 1994, says the side will continue to make it tough for whoever they meet.
„We have had nightmare opponents wherever we went, and no matter who we get they’ll have to work hard to win. We believe in what we’re doing and believe we can do something great, and that we can achieve something fantastic,“ he told reporters.
The Swedes have traditionally been a tough opponent for the English, who went 43 years without a win over the Scandinavians from 1968 to 2011, with England manager Gareth Southgate saying they had underestimated them in the past.
After suffocating the Swiss with their compact, defensive style, the Swedes are unlikely to change the tactics that have carried them this far in the tournament, and the fact that England will be favorites will not bother them.
„I don’t think their players want to meet us. We have shown time and again that we are a team that no-one wants to meet, a team that allows very few goal chances,“ midfielder Gustav Svensson said after Sweden’s third clean sheet in four games.
„If you ask their players, I don’t think any of them will want to meet us.“
Sweden coach Janne Andersson said his side was „easy to analyze but very difficult to beat“.
Sweden remains one of the least fancied teams left in the competition, with little in the way of star power following the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic after Euro 2016.
„I think there was a coach who once said about their team that they’re quite easy to analyze but quite difficult to beat. I think that’s a right description for us,“ Andersson told reporters Friday.
Sweden has lost to England just once in eight competitive meetings — a 3-2 defeat during the group stage at Euro 2012 — but Andersson said past records are meaningless.
„We’re a completely different squad and so are they, so anything that went before is not relevant,“ he said.
The 3-0 win over Mexico in Sweden’s final group match is the only time the Scandinavians have scored more than once in their past 11 official games.
They have kept three clean sheets in four outings in Russia but captain Andreas Granqvist will have his work cut out against Harry Kane, the leading scorer in the competition with six goals.
„He’s incredibly skilled, not just at penalties but as a striker. It’s going to be a very tough match against him but we will do our best to stop him,“ said Granqvist, who will be partnered by Victor Lindelof in central defense.
„Many things must be right to beat a team like England.
„We need to get the defense right, we need to be courageous when we have possession. We have a clear idea of what we want to do in attack and we want to able to implement all of this.“