England reaches World Cup semifinals for 1st time in nearly 30 years

England has advanced further than was widely expected after 2-0 win over Sweden

England achieved something David Beckham’s generation never managed: It reached the semifinals of the World Cup.

Harry Maguire and Dele Alli scored with headers in a 2-0 win over Sweden on Saturday, earning England’s youthful team a match against either Croatia or host nation Russia for a place in the final on July 15.

“We looked composed,” England captain Harry Kane said. “We looked like we controlled the game.”

England’s fairly muted celebrations reflected the routine nature of the victory over a hard-working Swedish side that had already gone further than expected in its first major tournament without Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

England’s deep run also is a surprise. Not even the England side containing stars like Beckham, Steven Gerrard and a young Wayne Rooney ever got this far at a major tournament.

WATCH: Ovechkin shows off the Stanley Cup at the World Cup

READ MORE: History-making 1986 team frustrated Canada hasn’t returned to World Cup

The 1966 World Cup champions last reached the semifinals in 1990, losing the first of a series of haunting penalty shootouts. In 2014, the team didn’t even make it out of the group stage.

Yet the performances of Gareth Southgate’s squad — the second youngest at the tournament — are being celebrated wildly back home. Even at Wimbledon, the home of lawn tennis, updates of England’s goals were spread by fans watching or listening to the match on their cellphones.

“I know the fans here are enjoying it,” Kane said. “The fans at home, I’m sure we’ll see some videos tonight of them enjoying it.”

The chant of “On our way, on our way, to Moscow, on our way” came from England fans in one corner of the Samara Arena throughout the match, and the team’s march to the Russian capital is being fuelled by goals from set pieces.

There was another against Sweden, with Maguire heading in a driven corner from Ashley Young in the 30th minute. It was England’s eighth set-piece goal of its 11 in Russia, and the centre back’s first in international soccer.

The standard of England’s crossing has particularly stood out this tournament, and Alli added the second goal by meeting a far-post cross from midfielder Jesse Lingard with a powerful header in the 59th. At 22, Alli became the second-youngest scorer for England at a World Cup behind Michael Owen.

“We knew set plays would be key,” Maguire said. “And also that little ball that Jesse sent in for Dele, that was great. We worked on that in practice.”

It proved to be a match too far for the Swedes, who advanced further than they ever did with Ibrahimovic — the team’s star for more than a decade — by being compact and hard to break down. That helped them win a two-leg playoff against Italy to get to the World Cup, top a group containing Germany, and then beat Switzerland in the round of 16.

They began solidly against England in a slow and sloppy start to the game that resembled a pre-season friendly at times, only to be outdone by a goal Sweden isn’t used to conceding.

“Up until that corner, I felt that we had everything under control,” Sweden coach Janne Andersson said. “I felt that we had the match in our hands.”

Although Sweden rallied in the final 30 minutes, forcing two good saves from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, England comfortably held on for its first shutout of the tournament.

Sterling’s struggles

England forward Raheem Sterling has yet to score at the World Cup from his unusual position as the support striker to Kane, and his finishing let him down against Sweden.

Set clear by Jordan Henderson’s long pass over the defence late in the first half, Sterling tried to get around Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen but was stopped. Sterling got hold of the loose ball but his shot was deflected over.

Sterling’s movement was very good, though, causing Sweden’s slow defence problems throughout. He is likely to retain his starting place for the semifinals.

Swedish tactics

Virtually from kickoff, Sweden sent long passes forward to tall striker Ola Toivonen and looked for a flick-on. It was a sign of what was to come — direct balls, long throws, pressing — but those basic tactics didn’t trouble England.

The Sweden team got in a huddle after the game and Andersson spoke to the players.

“We were sad and we’re disappointed,” Andersson said, “but we mustn’t forget we put in an excellent performance. I wanted to say that already on the pitch, too, to our players.”

Sweden last reached the World Cup semifinals in 1994, and ended up finishing third.

Steve Douglas, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Spirit North funding annoucement now expected any day

Indigenous Services Canada annouces new timeline for funding annoucement

Kitwanga inches closer to ambulance station goal

This year’s Humpy Run raises close to $20,000.

Anglers furious over VIP fishing trip

DFO, SkeenaWild both investigating legality of FN research licence to fishing party

Kool-Aid Man bails on Terrace and Kitimat mayoral race

Says he has accomplished goal of raising electoral awareness

Terrace Northmen earn third place in rugby provincials

The two-time reigning champs took home the bronze medals this year

64 cats seized from ‘bad situation’ now in BC SPCA care

The surrender is part of an ongoing animal cruelty investigation with BC SPCA Special Constable

Woman who helped kidnap Elizabeth Smart released from prison

Smart was 14 years old when she was snatched from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 by street preacher Brian David Mitchell

New York books editor out after backlash over Jian Ghomeshi essay

Ian Buruma, who was appointed as editor of the New York Review of Books in late 2017, no longer works for the publication

B.C. couple plans sustainable, zero-waste life in the Shuswap

Plan includes building a tiny house before the snow flies

Housing slowdown forecast to cool B.C. economy

Conference Board says pipeline, trade uncertainty affecting investment

B.C. hockey product eyes shot at Olympic spot with China

Fletcher is one of 24 who travelled to Shenzhen, China for the first official Olympic dev camp.

Are you feeling lazy? That’s OK – it’s just science

UBC study shows that humans are hardwired to prefer being sloth-like

LETTER: Who do we blame for the tragedy of Marrisa Shen’s death?

The B.C. girl was killed in a Burnaby park last July

Competition tribunal to hear B.C.-based case on airline food starting in October

The competition commissioner argued Vancouver airport authority had exploited its market position

Most Read