Harry Maguire and Dele Alli have headed England into their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years, scoring either side of half-time to dispatch Sweden 2-0 in their Samara quarter-final.
Maguire scored the opener off England’s first corner of the match, the Leicester defender powering home Ashley Young’s delivery in the 30th minute. Alli then nodded home in the 59th minute after Jesse Lingard floated a delightful cross towards the back post.
Gareth Southgate’s side are now just one win away from the World Cup final. England’s semi-final opponents will be decided on Saturday night, when the host nation Russia face Croatia at the Fisht Stadium.
Sweden, who knocked out Switzerland in last 16, named two changes: Seb Larsson returned from suspension to replace Gustav Svensson in midfield and Emil Krafth replaced the banned Mikael Lustig at right-back.
Jamie Vardy had been England’s main injury concern but the Leicester striker was listed among the substitutes. Three of Southgate’s starting XI – Kyle Walker, Lingard and Henderson – started the match one booking away from suspension, as well as the substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
England made a scrappy start, Young mis-controlling twice in the opening few minutes and Walker drilling a pass straight at Marcus Berg’s back. They did enjoy more possession, though, with Sweden inviting England on.
Sterling’s first forward run led to a free-kick which Henderson took quickly but hit it straight against a Sweden player. The referee waved play on but England immediately lost the ball attempting to switch the play wide on the left.
Alli dispossessed Krafth at the next England attack but his through-ball for Harry Kane ran too long and Robin Olsen easily gathered.
The game had taken on a sluggish pace when Viktor Claesson was given space to shoot from 25 yards as England backed off. The shot sailed high and wide but Jordan Pickford was furious with his defenders.
Space opened up in front of Claesson again on the quarter-hour but his ball into the box came off Henderson and allowed Maguire to clear.
In the 19th minute England broke with speed, Henderson shuttling the ball forward for Sterling. The Manchester City winger progressed upfield and stepped aside when his run brought him alongside Kane. The captain swept at goal from 20 yards but was a yard off target.
After a patient build-up Sterling finally took England inside the box and appealed for handball when his chipped pass hit Emil Forsberg but the referee Bjorn Kuipers waved play on. When England broke again Trippier crossed too close to Olsen, who smothered.
England won their first corner after half an hour following good work from Henderson, Alli and Trippier. It proved a goldmine for Southgate’s side, Young clipping a ball towards the penalty spot in Maguire’s direction. The Leicester defender attacked the space, leapt above Forsberg and powered home to make it 1-0.
The goal settled England, though Sweden did not react by immediately chasing an equaliser. Krafth, whose header gave England the corner, made a couple of attempts to find Marcus Berg in the box but could not find the perfect cross.
Towards the end of the first half Sterling was pulled up for offside after going through one on one with Olsen but his reticence over releasing his shot spoke of his growing nerves in front of goal.
The same concern became apparent seconds later when Henderson sent the Manchester City forward clear with a pass over the top. Sterling’s first touch was good but Olsen got a glove to it as he attempted to round the goalkeeper. He cut back on himself then, with Kane and Alli waiting, opted to shoot. Andreas Granqvist deflected the effort wide, to Sterling’s frustration.
The half-time whistle followed after one more moment of pressure in the Swedish box, leaving England with the 1-0 lead.
The second half was less than two minutes old when Sweden finally bared their teeth. Berg went up against Young at the far post and when a cross was swung in he climbed high and headed goalwards but Pickford was alert.
Young continued to contribute from set-pieces, helping to create danger with a 53rd-minute free-kick. Maguire’s first contact gave Sterling a sniff at the back post and when the ball made it back to the defender he nodded it across the six-yard box, but Sweden cleared.
England started to enjoy extra space in the final third, created by Sweden’s greater need to attack. In the 59th minute that territory turned into their second goal. Trippier played the ball back for Lingard and when the Manchester United man hung a cross towards the back post Alli slipped the defensive net. By the time he leapt to nod the ball home he was all alone and Krafth’s hopes for an offside flag came to nothing.
Sweden needed a response and only Pickford’s intervention stopped them producing one almost immediately. Ola Toivonen’s low cross was back-heeled by Berg for Claesson, whose snap shot was destined for the bottom corner until the Everton goalkeeper produced a tumbling stop.
Claesson might still have buried the rebound but Henderson threw his body in the way to make a vital block and keep England in sight of a first semi-final in 28 years.
Sweden made two changes with 25 minutes to go, replacing Toivonen and Forsberg with John Guidetti and Martin Olsson. The alterations did not help them repel another England corner, half clearing only to leave Maguire sweeping up a ricochet. He hooked a shot at goal but his effort never worried Olsen.
Sweden cut England open at the back in the 71st minute, a flicked header and a skiddy cross enough to take advantage of tiring legs. Berg collected the ball slightly behind him but turned to whip a shot at goal from eight yards. Pickford may have been unsighted by Maguire but reached high to tip the ball over.
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