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FOOTBALL

Sweden beat Switzerland 1-0 to reach World Cup quarter-finals

Sweden reached the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in 24 years after Emil Forsberg's deflected shot earned a scrappy 1-0 win over Switzerland on Tuesday.

Sweden beat Switzerland 1-0 to reach World Cup quarter-finals
Swiss defender Manuel Akanji reacts after the final whistle. Photo: AFP

This was far from a classic at the Saint Petersburg Stadium and if Colombia or England's players were watching on from Moscow, they could be forgiven for feeling bullish about their prospects in the last eight. 

Switzerland's Michael Lang was sent off in injury-time for a last-ditch push on Martin Olsson and referee Damir Skomina downgraded his penalty to a free-kick on the edge of the area. But the game was already up. 

Forsberg's second-half strike, which deflected off the unfortunate Manuel Akanji, means Sweden are through to the World Cup last eight for the first time since 1994 in the United States.

Their route to the quarters has not been easy and, what they have lost in the individual brilliance of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they appear to have gained in grit, determination and collective spirit. 

Read also: Sweden v. Switzerland – 12 facts to help you tell them apart

Their next opponents would be foolish to take them lightly. 

The one blemish on the victory was a yellow card for defender Mikael Lustig, who will now be suspended for the quarter-final in Samara on Saturday. 

Both sides had been hampered by suspensions here too, with Switzerland more badly affected. They were without both Fabian Schaer and captain Stephan Lichtsteiner at the back, prompting Johan Djourou and Lang to come in. 

For Sweden, Gustav Svensson replaced Sebastian Larsson in midfield. 

After back-to-back penalty shoot-outs, Brazil versus Mexico and Belgium's pulsating comeback against Japan, there was always a danger this last-16 tie would struggle to deliver, even on low expectations. 

It was a contest that lacked quality, particularly in the final third, where both teams were often painfully imprecise.

Victor Lindelof slipped on the ball in the first 10 seconds and that set the tone for the first half, which was largely a collection of mishit passes, heavy touches and skewed shots. 

There were chances and Sweden had most of them. Marcus Berg blasted over when set free early on and then saw his finish blocked following a poor clearance by Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer. 

After a slow start, and Lustig's foul on Josip Drmic, Switzerland grew in confidence and should have scored when Blerim Dzemaili snatched at Steven Zuber's pull-back. 

At the other end, Albin Ekdal was even closer, and completely free, when he sidefooted Lustig's cross over. 

Rather than let loose, both teams tightened after the interval, and Forsberg's goal came out of the blue. With space on the edge of the box, his dummy did for Granit Xhaka before the shot was helped in by the outstretched foot of Akanji. 

Switzerland twice went close to grabbing an equaliser, as Djourou's header dribbled agonisingly across the goal-line and substitute Haris Seferovic drew a late save from close range. 

Olsson was pushed in the back by Lang with only Sommer to beat in injury-time, with Skomina initially awarding a penalty but changing his decision to a free-kick after he consulted the replay. Lang's red card stood and Sweden held on. 

FOOTBALL

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame

A Swiss super fan who has shot to fame after images of him watching Switzerland’s win over France went viral told the media he was unaware of his viral fame - but that he was overwhelmed with the world’s attention.

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame
Image: Twitter.

Like most Swiss football fans, Luca Loutenbach’s Monday evening – highlighted by a surprise upset win over the current World Champions and tournament favourite France – went about as well as you could have expected. 

But while his side were putting on the pressure through late goals to push the game into extra time, Loutenbach’s image was being shared across the world. 

Two pictures of Loutenbach, juxtaposed from before and after Switzerland scored an equaliser in the 90th minute to send the game to extra time, were widely shared. 

The images were even shared by Sadiq Kahn, the mayor of London, who congratulated Switzerland and said the images summed up the beauty of football. 

On Tuesday, Loutenbach spoke with Swiss tabloid Blick to tell the story. He said he had no idea about the images as his phone had no reception in Romania – and only found out after the game. 

“I didn’t have a network during the game. But some fans around me were connected to the internet and quickly realized what was happening. What an incredible buzz!” said the man from the canton of Jura. 

While Switzerland have made it further than they have in their history in the tournament, Loutenbach is far from a bandwagon fan. He told Blick he’s seen around 50 national team games before. 

“It’s the most beautiful day in the history of Swiss football, let’s not be afraid of saying it. It is the accomplishment of the immense work of the ASF (Federation), of (coach) Petkovic and of the whole team” he said. 

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