Sweden, Switzerland eye spot in World Cup last 8 (Preview)

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Samara (Spain), July 2 (IANS) The World Cup Round-of-16 match between Switzerland and Sweden on Tuesday will be a duel between Europe’s two quiet, under-the-radar achievers.

But anyone who has followed Switzerland closely over the past two years will not be surprised by the team’s progress to the pre-quarterfinals, reports Xinhua news agency.

Vladimir Petkovic’s side is ranked No.8 in the world, having lost just one of their past 25 matches. They warmed up for the tournament by drawing 1-1 with Spain and beating Japan 2-0 five days later.

The Swiss brought that solid form to Russia, holding Brazil to a 1-1 draw in their opener before coming from behind to beat Serbia 2-1. They were slightly less impressive in a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica in their last match, their defense looking unusually vulnerable against the Central American outfit.

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While Switzerland’s strength lies in their solidity at the back, they also carry an attacking threat, led by their skilful playmaker Granit Xhaka and winger Xherdan Shaqiri. Blerim Dzemaili and Valon Behrami will feature in midfield, while Steven Zuber and centre-forward Haris Seferovic will provide pace on the break.

Sweden, ranked No. 24, have probably looked even stronger in the group stage. After a 1-0 win over South Korea in their opener, the Swedes were unlucky to lose to Germany after a brilliant last-gasp Toni Kroos strike. Janne Andersson’s team then routed Mexico 3-0 to secure top spot in their group.

When the Swedes opened up against Mexico they played their best football of the tournament, so will they look to be positive against the Swiss, after seeing how Costa Rica made them suffer.

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The Scandinavians will be hoping for more from forward duo Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen, who have scored just one goal between them in Russia so far. The team’s top scorer to date is center-back Andreas Granqvist with two goals.

Both sides will be impacted by suspensions for the match at Saint Petersburg Stadium. Switzerland will be without right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner and central defender Fabian Schar while Sweden midfielder Sebastian Larsson is also out after picking up two yellow cards in the competition’s first phase. Larsson’s likely replacement is to be either Gustav Svensson or Oscar Hiljemark.

The winner will play the victor of Tuesday’s other fixture between Colombia and England.

Switzerland are hoping to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 1954 while Sweden last appeared in the last eight in 1994, when they finished third.

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Sweden coach Janne Andersson said his team will be prepared for a penalty shootout to decide the duel with Switzerland, a match that pits together two of Europe’s most defense-minded teams.

The absence of world-class strikers in either side has led to predictions that the scores will be tied after 120 minutes at Saint Petersburg Stadium.

“It’s my job to decide on the players who need to perform, in this case for the penalty shootout situation,” Andersson said. “We’ve talked about it in the squad… and I’m going to rank the players, the entire squad in terms of penalties.”

“We have a clear plan in place for what we’re going to do, but I’m not going to enter into any more details.”

–IANS

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