SAMARA, Russia — Having intentionally steered England into what’s widely considered the weaker half of the World Cup’s knockout bracket, coach Gareth Southgate now is casting the quarterfinal against Sweden as “bloody difficult.”
Southgate sent out a crew of reserves who lost 1-0 to Belgium in their group-stage finale, and after both teams survived scares in the Round of 16, Belgium now faces Brazil. England meets a Sweden side that gets far less respect.
Sweden got to this same point by playing smart and unselfish soccer.
Sweden is “a team I respect hugely,” Southgate said Wednesday. “You know we’ve not got a good record against them, I think we’ve always underestimated them.