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Swiss, Swedes brace for all-European battle

  • Published at 01:46 am July 3rd, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:49 am July 3rd, 2018
Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri

Both Sweden and Switzerland will be looking to end their quarter-final drought in the Fifa World Cup when the two European sides lock horns with each other in the last 16 clash in Saint Petersburg, Russia Tuesday.

The Swiss last qualified for the last eight in the greatest show on earth in 1954 when they hosted the World Cup.

In contrast, the Swedes last played in the quarters 24 years ago in the USA World Cup where they eventually finished third.

Both the sides have played some good football so far in Russia.

Sweden started the tournament with a win against South Korea, before they were brought right back down to earth by Germany. However, their 3-0 drubbing against high-flying Mexico will surely boost them in this knockout stage.

The Swiss on the other hand held five-time world champion Brazil to a 1-1 draw and followed it up with a come from behind 2-1 win against Serbia. In their final group stage game they were denied victory in unfortunate circumstances after a penalty by Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz made its way to the goal following a deflection by goalkeeper Yann Sommer.

For the Swedes, the defence will be key, but their free-scoring run in the group stage is a testament of their attackers’ ability. Overall, Sweden are in full rhythm and will have nothing to lose against Switzerland.

The Swiss tie will be Sweden’s 50th World Cup match. In the process, the Swedes will become the 11th team to achieve the feat, and the seventh from Europe. Sweden manager Janne Anderson talked in details about his side’s defence and tactics in the pre-match press conference Saturday evening.

"The starting point is that every player on the pitch is a defender. It’s what Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen personify the most, with the work they do. Then we relate to each other. We don’t run to chase our opponent," said Andersson, who will miss the services of Sebastian Larsson due to suspension.

"When it comes to penalties it’s a new situation for us. During the past few years we've done a few in training, since it’s been fun to see who takes penalties. Without the players knowing, I’ve already sorted them a bit in my head, but no, we won’t practise any penalties in training,” he added. 

Swiss manager Vladimir Petkovic will miss key defenders Fabian Schar and captain Stephan Lichtsteiner due to suspension. It will be interesting to see who play in place of Schar and Lichtsteiner. Defender Michael Lang, who was not included in the starting XI in the last couple of matches, is hoping for his chance to shine in place of the suspended duo.

"The most important thing [Tuesday] will be that we do everything for the success of the team. I haven't been in the starting line-up for a few weeks. I am really looking forward to this game. We're ready for the Round of 16," said Lang.

The Swiss will be eager to continue their incredible record of conceding just one loss in their last 25 games. 

"These figures are no coincidence. We've fought hard for this status over the last few months," Swiss forward Josip Drmic said about the feat.

The two teams have met each other 29 times in qualifiers and friendlies in the last 98 overs. The Swiss have won 11 times while the Swedes have been victorious on 10 occasions.