SAMARA: Headers from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli gave England a 2-0 win over Sweden as they reached their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.
England dominated the ball in Samara and were good value for the victory, but did have goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to thank for avoiding a nervous ending.
After a laboured start, England took the lead through Maguire’s header from a corner (30), his first international goal and England’s fifth from a set-piece at this World Cup, more than any other side.
Alli doubled England’s lead on 58 minutes with another header, creeping in at the back post to convert Jesse Lingard’s cute delivery.
Pickford was indomitable in the England net, making three fine saves in the second half to keep Sweden at bay, as England kept a clean sheet for the first time in the tournament.
Sweden slowed the tempo early on as the game got off to a dull start, but the first half-chance fell to England as Harry Kane flashed wide from 20 yards after good running from Raheem Sterling.
Set-pieces have played an integral part in England’s success so far at the World Cup, and the dead-ball delivery came up trumps again on 30 minutes as Maguire piled in 12 yards out to head Ashley Young’s drilled cross past Robin Olsen.
Sterling then had a golden chance to double England’s lead before the break from Jordan Henderson’s fine through-ball, but he failed to take on Olsen, dwelling too long on the ball before his rebounded shot was blocked.
Sweden hardly had a sniff in the first half, but nearly levelled early in the second as Marcus Berg rose above Young at the far post from Ludwig Augustinson’s cross, but Pickford did brilliantly to tip it away.
England regained control, however, and were 2-0 up just before the hour mark as Alli scored just his third international goal, nodding home six yards out from Lingard’s cross from the right.
Sweden reacted well and should have halved the deficit but for Pickford’s superb save, diving low to his right to keep out Viktor Claesson’s effort, and the Everton man was again at his best moments later to tip over Berg’s shot on the turn.
But England saw out the final stages with professionalism, reaching their first tournament semi-final since Euro 96 and their first at the World Cup since Italia 90.