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It’s safe to say that the 2018 World Cup will live long in the memory. Football fans the world over were treated to some fantastic matches during the group stages of the tournament in Russia and the round of 16 continued to live up to the billing.
After seven intriguing, dramatic ties the only thing that was missing from the first round of knockout matches was an England penalty shootout. Neutrals got their wish thanks to a last gasp equaliser from Colombia and the shootout was going to script after Jordan Henderson saw his penalty saved. Incredibly, Colombia then missed their next two penalties which gave Eric Dier the chance to secure England’s first ever World Cup penalty shootout win which he duly did.
Having made it past Colombia the draw has now opened up for England. Gareth Southgate won’t be letting his players get carried away with themselves but he knows they are the favourites to beat Sweden on Saturday afternoon at the Samara Arena.
England 10/11 (Bet365)
Draw 12/5 (Paddy Power)
Sweden 7/2 (Ladbrokes)
(Please note all odds shown are correct at time of article publishing)
The bookies’ odds, pundits’ predictions and an objective comparison of the two squads suggests that England should make it through to a semi-final against either Russia or Croatia. Sweden will have plenty to say about that.
Janne Andersson has worked very closely with his players since being named Sweden manager after Euro 2016. In the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic – arguably Sweden’s greatest ever player – Andersson has hammered home the importance of the group. By creating a close knit atmosphere that many have likened to that of a club rather than an international team, Andersson gets the most out of his players. They work incredibly hard for one another, stick rigidly to the tactical plan and are particularly threatening from set pieces which they drill endlessly on the training ground.
Sweden showed their belligerent side when keeping a more talented Switzerland side at bay in their round of 16 tie and will be targeting the same against England. If the Three Lions are to justify their price of 10/11 with Bet365, they’ll need to ensure that the Swedish defence never feels comfortable. That means moving the ball quickly, utilising their combination of pace and power in attacking positions and switching their approach up.
We think that is within England’s capabilities and that they will book their place in the semi-finals without requiring extra time or penalties.
England 1-0 @ 19/4 (Unibet)
Draw 1-1 @ 6/1 (Bet365)
Draw 0-0 @ 13/2 (888Sport)
England 2-0 @ 7/1 (Betfred)
England 2-1 @ 9/1 (Bet365)
Sweden 1-0 @ 10/1 (Betfred)
The quality of Sweden’s all round play against Switzerland was not matched by the quality of their finishing. Andersson could only watch on in disbelief as his strikers and midfielders missed chance after chance in Saint Petersburg. They’ll need to be much better in front of goal to remain in the World Cup but England must be wary about Sweden’s ability to create chances.
Apart from the weak defending for Colombia’s 94th minute equaliser, England were impressive at the back on Tuesday night. The three centre-backs kept their shape, they looked strong and mobile and they were able to pass their way out of trouble. Other than a possible injury to Ashley Young, there is no need for Southgate to change things in defence so England have a good chance of keeping a clean sheet. That makes the 7/1 that Betfred are quoting on the England 2-0 correct score look very tempting.
Harry Kane 5/2 (Sportingbet)
Jamie Vardy 9/2 (Totesport)
Marcus Rashford 6/1 (Paddy Power)
Danny Welbeck 11/2 (William Hill)
Raheem Sterling 11/2 (Ladbrokes)
Jesse Lingard 8/1 (Paddy Power)
Dele Alli 17/2 (Coral)
Marcus Berg 17/2 (888Sport)
No prizes for guessing who is at the top of the First Goalscorer market. Harry Kane is the top scorer in the World Cup with six goals and opened the scoring in two of the three matches he’s played in Russia (he scored a hat-trick in the other). England’s chances of winning the World Cup (they’re 4/1 with Paddy Power) rest heavily on Kane’s shoulders and he is clearly the man most likely to open the scoring against Sweden at 5/2 with Sportingbet.
Jesse Lingard is another tempting option at 8/1 with Paddy Power. He has nailed down a starting place in the centre of the pitch but is no bog standard midfielder. It’s Lingard’s ability to drift into dangerous positions and drag the opposition defence out of position that Southgate most values and he could just come up with something special if England’s Plan-A doesn’t work.
England to win at 10/11 with Bet365
England 2-0 correct score at 7/1 with Betfred