Emil Forsberg’s second half deflected strike secured Sweden’s place in the last eight of the World Cup as they beat Switzerland 1-0 in St Petersburg.
Both sides created opportunities in a lively first half, and a deflected goal summed up the quality of the finishing throughout the 90 minutes.
The win means Sweden’s impressive campaign motors on as they await the winner of Colombia and England in the quarter-finals.
Both teams created numerous chances in what was an end to end first-half.
But, perhaps a sign of nerves, they were both hugely wasteful as the Swede’s and Swiss looked to secure their first World Cup quarter-finals since 1994 and 1954 respectively.
Marcus Berg, who has been industrious but not scored in this tournament, had two brilliant opportunities. Firstly, he was sent through one-on-one with Yann Sommer but skewed his shot high and wide, but he was to come closer with a second effort.
This time Berg did test Sommer. He was able to get a shot off on the turn, which sprung the Swiss keeper into life as he got down well to make a good save.
The best chance of the half fell to Albin Ekdal. Mikael Lustig crossed a deep ball from the right flank into the Swedish midfielder but as he looked set to score, he volleyed it horribly over the bar.
The same player had also volleyed over earlier in the half too. The Swiss back line looked nervy early on and Sommer’s ball out from defence was intercepted by Ekdal. He played in Berg whose shot was blocked brilliantly by Manuel Akanji, before Ekdal’s rebound was off target.
Switzerland also came very close. Steven Zuber hit an effort straight at Robin Olsen early on, before the Hoffenheim man headed over from Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross later in the half.
Zuber, however, set up Switzerland’s best chance of the half, laying the ball on a plate for Blerim Dzemaili who hammered a shot over from inside the box.
It took over an hour for the first goal to arrive, and for all the clear chances there had been in the game, it came courtesy of a deflected strike.
The play opened up for Forsberg on the edge of the area who shimmied away from the marker and then hit an effort goalbound. The ball was heading straight towards Sommer but took a fortuitous deflection off Akanji and found its way into the back of the net.
Forsberg has been Sweden’s most promising player at this World Cup, but up to now has only shown glimpses of his true quality. His goal was the first of his World Cup campaign and despite the deflection, was well deserved for his performances so far.
Moments later the Swede’s almost had a second. Ekdal from a similar position from where they opened the scoring, evaded Granit Xhaka’s challenge but then fired over.
As expected there was late pressure from the Swiss. Breel Embolo, a second-half substitute came closest, getting on the end of a corner, only to see an effort blocked almost on the line by Forsberg before it was hooked clear by Swedish captain Andreas Granqvist.
Shots were meanwhile blocked on the edge of the area as Switzerland couldn’t quite carve out clear chances. Shaqiri was still able to find space on the right for his country, but after scoring late on against Serbia earlier in the competition couldn’t save his country again.
He had chances to cross on numerous occasions but his delivery was uncharacteristically poor for most of the match.
Haris Seferovic came extremely close as the game went into injury time. Ricardo Rodriguez crossed a ball into the box but the Swiss striker’s header was denied by Olsen.
With the game coming to its end Sweden were given a penalty, and Swiss defender Michael Lang was sent off, only for VAR to overturn the penalty decision and award a free-kick.
Martin Olsson had been sent through on goal and was then shoved by Lang. He went down in the penalty area but the first contact, as shown by VAR, was just outside the penalty area.
Ola Toivonen hit the resulting free-kick but it was straight at Sommer as the referee then blew the full-time whistle.
Although not convincing in front of goal, the Swede’s were dogged again in their performance and deserved a place in the last eight.
As has been evident throughout the tournament, Sweden’s physicality proved too much with another professional and resolute display sending them through.
Switzerland found it difficult and Sweden held on to keep their third clean sheet in four games at this World Cup.