Sweden v Switzerland Tuesday 03 July, 15:00 Live on BBC 1
Swedes happy to prioritise solidity ahead of style
In a tournament that has been full of drama, thrills and spills, Sweden have been content to rely on what got them to the big show in the first place. Apart from a second-half collapse against Germany, they have defended diligently, keeping clean sheets against South Korea and Mexico. That cohesion has allowed them to top their group against the odds, and they care little that two of their five goals have come from the penalty spot, and that their attacking play rarely gets the pulse racing.
Coach Janne Andersson admits he has already worked out his list of penalty takers in the event of a shootout, which is typical of his pragmatic approach. Having refused to entertain the notion of drafting Zlatan Ibrahimovic into his squad, Andersson has convinced his players that the power collective eclipses any individual talent. That mantra carried Sweden past Italy in the playoffs, and now Andersson hopes it will book Sweden's first World Cup quarter-final since 1994.
Andersson will be forced to make a change in midfield, with Seb Larsson suspended. Gustav Svensson could come in to replace him, but Andersson isn't expected to tinker elsewhere. Sweden are still waiting for playmaker Emil Forsberg to make his mark on the tournament - the RB Leipzig playmaker is yet to score or set up a goal in this World Cup.
Can Switzerland break last-16 barrier?
Switzerland have enjoyed something of a purple patch in recent years, reaching the last 16 of their last two major tournaments. They conceded a last-gasp goal in extra time against Argentina four years ago in Brazil, and at Euro 2016 they were beaten on penalties by Poland.
This is a talented Swiss side that has been playing together for a long time under astute coach Vladimir Petkovic, and there is an undeniable feeling that this is a golden opportunity. Spain's elimination at the hands of hosts Russia has opened up that side of the draw, and success for Switzerland against Sweden would set up a quarter-final against either England or Colombia.
However, all has not been perfect at this World Cup. Having watchfully held Brazil to a draw in their opening game, the Swiss needed a Xherdan Shaqiri-inspired comeback to beat Serbia, and they had some very shaky spells in a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica. Petkovic must replace suspended defensive duo Fabian Schar and Stephan Lichtsteiner. Johan Djorou or Nico Elvedi could come in at centre-back, with Michael Lang likely to fill in at right-back.
Both teams could be in for the long haul
These teams have got this far by generally being well-organised units, with players who work incredibly hard for each other. Opta tell us that Switzerland have lost just one of their last 25 matches, while Sweden lost just three of their 12 qualifying matches for this tournament, including that stunning success against Italy.
Switzerland's last two knockout ties in major tournaments have gone to extra time, and with both teams proving difficult to beat, that could happen again. I'll back the draw after 90 minutes at 3.00.
On that basis, it's also worth delving into the Method of Victory market on the Sportsbook. You can back either team to win in extra time at 5/1, or back either team to win on penalties at 10/3. Of course, you can also back individual teams to win in extra time or via spot-kicks.
Stalemate expected, but you can make a case for goals
With both teams expected to be well drilled and rather cautious, it's no surprise to see Under 2.5 Goals trading at 1.52, but you could make a case for backing overs at a hefty 2.88. Of the six group games these sides have played between them at this tournament, four have featured at least three goals, and the Swiss are yet to keep a clean sheet so far. Neither team is yet to draw a blank at this tournament, and they have scored five goals apiece.
Skilful Shaqiri could make the difference
Xherdan Shaqiri has already made his mark on this tournament, scoring a superb late winner against Serbia. Opta tell us that he is the only Swiss player to have score in a major knockout game since 1954, and if Switzerland are to make progress here, he is likely to be at the heart of their best work. Shaqiri is trading at 4.10 to score in 90 minutes, and I think that's a great price.
Key Opta Stats for Sweden v Switzerland
Sweden are unbeaten in their last three games against Switzerland (W1 D2) although their last encounter was in March 2002 (1-1). The draw is3.00.
Since finishing as runners-up on home soil in 1958, Sweden have progressed past the second round of the World Cup on only one occasion, it was in 1994 when they finished third. Sweden are2.10 to reach the quarter-finals.
Sweden have never won back to back World Cup matches outside of their own country – they did so twice in 1958 as host nation but haven’t accomplished it in any of their other 11 tournaments including this one. They are3.10 to claim victory.
This will be Sweden’s 50th game at the World Cup, becoming the 11th team to reach that tally. Only Mexico have featured in more games without ever winning the tournament. Sweden are one of the outsiders to win the World Cup at70.00.
Switzerland last made it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1954 when the tournament was held on home soil. Since then, they have always been knocked out whenever they’ve reached the round of 16 (1994, 2006, 2014), not scoring a single goal in any of those three games. Sweden are4.60 to win to nil.
Switzerland have lost only one of their last 25 games (W17 D7), that came against Portugal in October 2017 (0-2). They are2.80 to win.
11 of Switzerland’s last 14 goals at the World Cup have been scored in the second-half, including four out of five at this year’s tournament. The draw half-time/Switzerland full-time double result is5.80.
Between them, Emil Forsberg and Marcus Berg have had 21 of Sweden’s 37 shots at the 2018 World Cup (57%) without scoring any of them. Under 2.5 goals is1.49.
Since Switzerland reached the quarter-finals at World Cup 1954, Xherdan Shaqiri is the only Swiss player to have scored in the knockout stages of a major tournament. It was at Euro 2016 against Poland. Shaqiri is4.00 to score.