Emil Forsberg 9/10 as Sweden beat Switzerland, book quarterfinal spot
Sweden booked their place in the World Cup quarterfinals with a 1-0 win over Switzerland built on typical defensive discipline and direct counterattacking. Emil Forsberg was the hero as his shot in the 67th minute struck Manuel Akanji and wrong-footed Yann Sommer to ensure the win, booking Sweden's first appearance in the final eight since 1994.
Even at their shakiest, Sweden still managed to keep the ball out of their net, and their ability to stick to the well-trodden game plan without fear speaks volumes about the spirit in this over-performing group. More important going forward, they finally managed to activate key player Forsberg around goal; fans and pundits alike will hope he can replicate his degree of influence in their next game, the biggest in Swedish football for over 20 years.
Janne Andersson will be worried about how easily Sweden allowed chances in the first half in particular, with both full-backs looking uncertain and the two central midfielders not pressing as effectively as in previous games. That all improved after half-time, but the Swedes can't afford to give a similar break to the greater attacking quality of England or Colombia.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Unsurprisingly, Andersson didn't rock the boat and kept Sweden doing what they do well, defending as a unit and attacking with a bit of bravery when possible. Could perhaps have been punished for waiting a touch too long with his changes, but Sweden just about had the legs to make it through and regardless, he will now go down as the country's best coach since Tommy Svensson took them to a dream third-place finish at USA '94.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Robin Olsen, 8 -- Receives fewer plaudits than other keepers in the tournament, but the FC Copenhagen man transmitted security and a sense of assurance to his teammates throughout. Always on his toes, he showed good reflexes and was early off the line when necessary, while his concentration showed in a vital save from Haris Seferovic at the death too saw Sweden through.
DF Mikael Lustig, 5 -- Had a difficult game when asked to defend, allowing clean shots and crosses too easily in Switzerland's opening flurry, erring in his attempts to press while also picking up a booking that will rule him out of the quarterfinal when he was turned by Josip Drmic. Did better going forward, putting the ball on a plate for Albin Ekdal with a great cross that should have been converted.
DF Andreas Granqvist, 6 -- Usually a man-mountain in the air but looked shaky at times today, though his few slips weren't costly. Constantly talking to teammates to help reposition them and maintain structure, the veteran was simple but tidy in his use of the ball.
DF Victor Nilsson Lindelof, 7 -- Sometimes sloppier in possession than he has been previously in this tournament but calmer in his defensive play, he made several confident interceptions in the second half. Produced a brilliant driving run from deep all the way into Switzerland's third to help create Forsberg's winning shot.
DF Ludwig Augustinsson, 6 -- Knew he would have work to do with Martin Lang's tendency to overlap and Xherdan Shaqiri also bearing down his flank. Gave away a few cheap balls that allowed Switzerland to attack into space early in the first half and looked rushed in possession at times, but bettered defensively towards the end as Sweden's confidence grew. Made a crucial run that pulled opponents out of position in the move leading up to the goal.
MF Viktor Claesson, 8 -- The Krasnodar midfielder has been involved in the majority of Sweden's best play at this tournament and that continued to be the case on Tuesday. Positive in his passing whenever possible, looking for the early ball or a wall pass with one of the strikers and chasing loose passes in the middle when necessary. Should have an offer or two this summer if he keeps this up.
MF Gustav Svensson, 5 -- Positionally disciplined, working to free Claesson and helping Lustig out too, but sloppy on the ball when pressed. Made a hugely important interception late in the first half however that turned a potential Swiss break with a numerical advantage into a golden chance for Ekdal.
MF Albin Ekdal, 6 -- Missed two big opportunities in the first half, one from a Berg lay-off in the box and the other when he was left completely free to fire home a Lustig cross. Goals aren't the Hamburg man's game but he should at least have made Yann Sommer work. Relished winning the ball in the middle far more.
MF Emil Forsberg, 9 -- Finally starting to look like the Forsberg of old. His turn of pace and quick exchanges of possession helped Sweden to up the tempo and take advantage of the transition, with his dribbling causing nightmares for Valon Behrami in particular. Helped with the deflection off Manuel Akanji for the winning goal but he won't care. Even made a goal-line block at the other end of the pitch to preserve Sweden's lead.
FW Ola Toivonen, 8 -- Repeatedly excellent hold-up play, working unselfishly to edge Sweden up the pitch and win free-kicks where possible. Also showed a creative spark when required to link up with Berg, most notably to exchange possession with Forsberg for the goal. The striker's final 10 minutes in particular were crucial as he helped keep his team in Switzerland's third through strong shielding of the ball and sensible passing.
FW Marcus Berg, 6 -- Works exceptionally hard to harry opponents, dropping deep and providing support if necessary or staying up to knock the ball into the path of compatriots. The same praise can't be given to his shooting however, with one great chance sliced wildly wide and other efforts hitting defenders. Did at least work Sommer once, but will need to be clinical if Sweden are to go further.
MF Martin Olsson, NR -- On in a more attacking position than usual for Forsberg towards the end. Thought he had won a penalty with a surging run in the final seconds only for VAR to clarify the foul was outside the box.
DF Emil Krafth, NR -- On for the yellow-carded Lustig in the last 10 minutes as Andersson made sure to avoid going a man down.
FW Isaac Kiese Thelin, NR -- On for Berg in stoppage time to add fresh legs.
Lee Roden is a European football writer based in Barcelona. Follow him on Twitter: @LeeRoden89.