Russia 2018 Watch: England have Swede dreams
PUBLISHED: 17:22 07 July 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
It’s not supposed to be as comfortable as this.
Those were the words of Gary Lineker in the BBC TV studio after England eased past Sweden and into the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia.
It wasn’t that comfortable watching the 2-0 win in a busy household, though.
Guy Mowbray introduced co-commentator Martin Keown as a fellow unused substitute alongside England boss Gareth Southgate when England last met Sweden in a World Cup tie in 2002 in Saitama.
During a scrappy start the most notable observation from Keown was how one of the Swedish players “looked a bit aggressive while he was eating a steak” in a restaurant the night before.
“It does feel a bit nervy, almost as if the handbrake is on,” added the former Arsenal defender in Arsene Wengeresque style.
England’s play was ‘slow and deliberate’ noted Mowbray, who chided Keown for mentioning ‘the V word’ after a quarter of an hour.
‘Put the tennis on!’ cried a co-watcher on my sofa.
But then Raheem Sterling went on a run and Harry Kane fired just wide from the edge of the box.
“Sweden had a fire alarm at their hotel at 8.36am this morning,” revealed Mowbray.
Keown, with impeccable timing, then spotted how: “We’re 20 minutes in and England are starting to wake up a little bit.”
We were told how Sweden had only averaged 38 per cent possession so far in this tournament, with Mowbray calling them ‘organised and obdurate’ and a side who ‘know how to win’.
But then England broke the deadlock with another goal from a set-piece, as the ever-improving Harry Maguire thumped home a header from a corner.
A young sports reporter from London will have been going wild no doubt at the Wireless festival.
All of a sudden the lounge was flooded with people to watch the replay of the goal.
And they stayed. But continued the conversation they had been having in the kitchen.
And the questions began.
Why do goalies wear green? How old is he?
Sterling missed a great chance to double England’s lead but his blushes were spared by VAR, who proved he was offside.
Another chance also went begging, with Sterling onside this time, in an exciting end to the first half.
Footage from fan zones around England were shown during the break. Croydon and Newcastle impressed the pundits.
“I’m surprised the Geordies are throwing their beer around,” said Alan Shearer, while all agreed that the underfire Sterling was a real ‘players’ player’.
Lineker told us how the omens were looking good, with Sweden having never won when trailing in a World Cup tie, drawing twice and losing nine.
However, in previous meetings between the two nations, all seven Sweden goals had been scored in second halves.
And this second half was barely three minutes old, when Jordan Pickford was called upon to make a stunning save from a far post header.
It was a wake-up call.
England went 2-0 up when Jesse Lingard curled a superb first-time cross to the far post for Dele Alli to head home from close range.
Pickford had to pull off two more impressive saves, low down to his right and then a fingertip effort over the crossbar.
Mowbray highlighted how the young Sunderland keeper had been out on six different loans, including to hot spots such as Darlington, Carlisle and Bradford.
‘Daddy’ Fabian Delph was thrown on for the last quarter of an hour in place of Alli, Eric Dier followed for Jordan Henderson with six minutes remaining and Marcus Rashford for Sterling at the start of stoppage time.
“Sweden play how we used to, 4-4-2. It’s Dark Ages,” said Keown as time ticked down to a semi-final meeting with either hosts Russia or Croatia.
“Professional, thorough. Every player played their part. All of them were absolutely magnificent. The attitude from very first moment to now has been first class. I never felt nervous at all,” said Shearer.
Ferdinand added: “Confidence exudes from this team.”
John Stones, Kyle Walker, Lingard and Alli evoked the spirit of Terry Butcher and Chris Waddle from 1990 and the ‘Let’s all have a disco’ dance.
All of a sudden, the lounge was almost empty again and I could hear the post-match thoughts of the pundits and the interviews with the players.
The problem is, now we’ve all got to watch Wednesday’s semi-final together as well. We wouldn’t want to jinx it.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Hackney Gazette. Click the link in the orange box below for details.