GELENDZHIK, Russia (Reuters) - England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden throws up a fascinating tactical battle in which wing back Kieran Trippier will play a key role in breaking down a Swedish side playing a classic, and very English, 4-4-2 system.
England have looked solid in Russia, playing three at the back and allowing wing backs Trippier and Ashley Young to get forward and support the attack, with Jordan Henderson playing a defensive midfield role.
Trippier in particular has been a creative force from the right wing, combining well with his forwards and midfield to create overlaps and fire in crosses for captain Harry Kane.
The Swedish set-up, however, is designed to keep the center closed off completely and plenty of bodies in the box. They have no problem allowing sides to attack them down the flanks, betting on themselves to deal with any crosses or low balls.
England will have noted how Germany switched the ball quickly from flank to flank, but the final ball must be of very high quality if it is to trouble the Swedish defense.
The Swedes have struggled in attack as forwards Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen lack the pace that is needed to convert counter-attacking opportunities, while winger Emil Forsberg — despite his goal against Switzerland — is not playing his best.
With England having looked lost early in extra time against Colombia and the Swedes admitting they concede possession as they are often the poorer side technically on paper, the question of tactical flexibility also comes into play.
Southgate’s side had a hard time responding to the late Colombian equalizer that forced extra time and seemed to fatigue as they tried to find a way to retain control of a game they had dominated.
Sweden will not be found wanting physically and coach Janne Andersson showed during his time as a club manager he is capable of making sweeping tactical changes, although his natural caution will most likely prevent him from doing so unless absolutely necessary.
With English soccer hugely popular in Sweden, fans can expect a quarter-final full of the commitment and passion reminiscent of the Premier League and the game is just as likely to be decided by a set piece or an error as it is by individual flair.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor