World Cup 2018 | Sweden 0 - 2 England

The return of an empire as England make semi-finals

The return of an empire as England make semi-finals

FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

EFE

England return to the World Cup semi-final stage 28 years later thanks to headed goals from Maguire and Dele Alli, an inspired Pickford, and a predictable Sweden.

In an easier match than expected, England reached their first World Cup semi-final since 1990, the third in their history. And with that they confirmed that what is happening in Russia is not an accident, as it feels like the script of a Ken Loach film. There were unexpected heroes of the match: a goalkeeper who, after six transfers - including time in the fifth tier - has only been playing in the top flight for two years; a centre-half who came from League One (the third tier); and Allan Russell, the set-piece specialist of Southgate's coaching team. Three unknowns that with modesty, hard work, awareness and trust in the plan are just two matches away from winning the World Cup.

Set-piece practice, and repeat

Harry Kane said this past week that Russell has been crucial in the team's progress. The first goal (a corner taken by Ashley Young and headed home by Maguire) was the team's eighth from set pieces, five from corners, out of ten scored in total. You can smell the danger before a corner kick to be taken by Ashley Young or a free-kick by Kieran Trippier. Allan is known for his obsession with detail, his insistence on testing out plays: "one more time, guys". And since this group is one that knows hard work bears fruit, nobody protests.

All over | Dele Alli makes it 0-2.

Up until that first goal, England knew how the match should be played, something that it has not done in years. Two atypical things are happening with England. In the country where their fans only know two feelings (ecstasy and depression, accentuated more than ever by social media and the extremism it creates) the national squad has chosen to ground their game on calmness, order and patience. Everyone has their role, and although the movement of the front four is not particularly fluid, not always on the same page, they are improving, and when they lose the ball nobody goes into hiding.

They are not carrying any passengers, with every one of them wanting to be part of this achievement. In addition, in spite of their media's desire to create unrealistic expectations, Southgate has managed to accentuate their virtues (dead ball situations) and conceal their defects (a lack of fluidity in attack). They don't play to be something they're not, but instead play as they know they are.

Sweden gone, immortality in sight

Sweden were neither worse nor better than in their other games. They went with their usual 4-4-2 that their limited individual talent of his own and created four chances. They did, however, come up against a goalkeeper in the best moment of his career. Pickford, shorter than other modern stoppers, has such leg power that he can reach everything, low down, up high, and whether from distance or point blank.

Reach | England's Jordan Pickford.

And the fact is that there is a feeling that England has more to give. Dele Alli, for example, Sometimes lacking in awareness, he is always ready, arriving at the right time from behind the play as he did for the second goal, a tidy first-time cross Lingard. With the score at 0-2 the match didn't offer up much more, England having discovered how to control the emotions, doing so very functionally. They're in with a shout.

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