Emil Fosberg scored his debut World Cup goal as Sweden defeated Switzerland 1-0 to progress into the quarterfinals for the first time since 1994, when they finished third in the United States edition.
It fit that Forsberg scored in the 66th minute, he was everywhere on the pitch against the Swiss and even made a goal-line clearance in the 79th minute to prevent Switzerland from scoring. Minutes earlier he had become a hero, when his low-shot from the tip of the box took a big deflection off Manuel Akanji into goal, with goalkeeper Yann Sommer wrong-footed.
The 26-year-old was subbed just moments after his clearance, but he had achieved his redemption, one that came at a fine moment for him. Because until the 66th minute when he seized an opportunity and was lucky to get a goal, Forsberg was Sweden’s most ineffective player in the tournament.
That luck certainly favoured him was not just evident on the goal, but also on the fact that he kept his place in the team because Coach Janne Andersson couldn’t find another player who had his qualities – to control the ball and escape his marker.
Those qualities however came of little use in the World Cup and although tinges of it were seen in that deflected goal, Andersson will hope that it helps to bring the RB Leipzig winger back into form.
Such was the game that not quality but stubborness was full in it, with Sweden going their usual way to defending deep, while Switzerland waited for a moment of inspiration, like the one they had against Brazil and Serbia.
That moment however never came and Switzerland failed to score, infact they have never scored a goal at the World Cup knockouts since 1954. Josip Drmić and Blerim Džemaili were guilty of missing two golden opportunities in the first-half, both skying the ball to the third tier from open situations.
Xherdan Shaqiri’s lobbed ball in the 24th minute found Drmić in a position that would have been a bread and butter for any striker. But with an entire goal to target, he found the stands.
Then 14 minutes later, a wonderful single-touch play between Valon Behrami and Drmić saw the latter find Džemaili with plenty of space just outside the Sweden box, but with most defenders preoccupied with other threats, all the midfielder could do was fire a shot that didn’t even trouble Robin Olsen at goal.
Sweden were equally wasteful and would still consider themselves fortunate for the deflection because otherwise, Forsberg’s shot was straight at Sommer’s hands.
The game was certainly a cagey affair especially after what this World Cup has produced but it was not the same for both the sides. It was normal to them and only through those means, did both Sweden and Switzerland progress to the round of 16. One earning penalties in consecutive matches, the other waiting for inspiration from their few talented players.
The second option is Switzerland, who kept on waiting for Granit Xhaka and Shaqiri to find the net, but they couldn’t and instead they found themselves tied down to 10-men after Michael Lang was shown a straight red for a last-minute tackle.