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.

Just Posted

Multiple drivers with symptoms of liquor consumption in the past week

The weekly police report for the South Cariboo area

100 Mile Free Press and Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal win Canadian Community Newspaper Award for Fire Fight

“[It] should be shared with all the people who told us their stories and trusted us with them”

Forest Grove’s Hootstock Festival says goodbye to old venue

After five years, the festival will move to the Forest Grove Community Hall grounds

Forest Grove is getting ready to rock with the 2018 Hootstock Music Festival

Nearly 30 acts from around Canada to show off their musical talents

Mile 108 teacher heads to B.C. offshore school in Egypt

‘I don’t know exactly what to expect, but that’s kind of what I’m excited for.’

Trudeau asks transport minister to tackle Greyhound’s western pullout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s asked Transport Minister Marc Garneau to find solutions in Greyhound Canada’s absence.

Hub for mental health and addictions treatment opens at B.C. hospital

St. Paul’s Hospital HUB is an acute medical unit that includes 10 patient beds

Restaurant Brands International to review policy over poaching employees

One of Canada’s largest fast-food company to review ‘no-poach’ franchise agreements

Calgary family’s vacation ends in tragedy on Texas highway

Three people died and four others were injured in the crash

Union construction cost competitive, B.C. Building Trades say

Non-union firms can bid on infrastructure, but employees have to join international unions

Trudeau to shuffle cabinet ahead of Liberals’ team for 2019

Trudeau could lighten the work loads of cabinet ministers who currently oversee more than one portfolio

Car calls 911 on possible impaired B.C. driver

A luxury car automatically calls Princeton police to scene of crash involving alcohol

BC Games marks 40 years in 2018

Cowichan Games a milestone for BC Games Society

VIDEO: Life’s a beach at this B.C. sand sculpting contest

More than $50,000 was up for grabs at the annual contest held in Parksville

Most Read