Ian Abrahams’ World Cup Diary: Sweden could prove a tough nut to crack
Broadcaster Ian Abrahams is out in Moscow for the duration of World Cup 2018 and has given us his thoughts on how England are shaping up ahead of their crucial Quarter Final against Sweden, plus his predictions for all four ties.
That penalty win was something else. Strangely enough, I was quite confident England would win that penalty shootout before it begun. It’s a big moment for England in this tournament. After reaching the Quarter Finals everything else is now a bonus but you can’t take your mind off the fact they should be targeting the chance to go all the way now.
I don’t see any point in playing that way. What’s the point of being at a World Cup and kicking people? I wondered about the appointment of the referee beforehand, and he lost all control.
The Sweden game…
I’ve seen plenty of games over the years where England have found Sweden very difficult to beat and I don’t envisage that changing on Saturday afternoon.
I would make a few changes, although I’m not sure if Gareth Southgate will. I’d bring in Danny Rose as he’s naturally left-footed. And this isn’t popular amongst pundits, but I’d also drop Sterling for Rashford as he hasn’t shown enough.
Sweden aren’t going to kick us off the pitch. They have no real superstars, but a hard-working team can go far in any tournament.
Before this World Cup, I was always confident England could reach the Quarter Finals and Harry Kane would win the Golden Boot. The first has been achieved and I think the latter is now looking more and more likely. England have exceeded expectations in terms of their current FIFA ranking.
There’s been loads of positives – winning a knockout game, winning a shootout. Whatever comes next, England have done very well.
The benefits of a long term plan…
England’s progress has been a collective effort. You can see they’ve practised things like preparing for penalties and worked on mentality. Credit for their progress has to be shared amongst the players, Southgate and all the coaching staff.
We’ve seen them win youth tournaments and that’s now starting to translate to the senior side, and I think all is looking set fair for Qatar 2022.
I remember going to lunch with Greg Dyke, the former FA Chairman, a few years ago where he said England were targeting winning the World Cup in 2022.
Everyone laughed at him. That doesn’t seem impossible now.
I think whoever wins out of Belgium and Brazil reaches the final.
Uruguay have injury problems regarding Cavani but they did well against Portugal and can’t be written off.
France should have won by more against a very poor Argentina side. How it ended 4-3 god only knows, and that’s a big concern for me. Mbappé’s pace should cause Uruguay trouble.
I can’t believe Russia got through. It was a great night to be in the Luzhniki for that one but that result was ridiculous. Croatia were poor the other night but even a poor Croatia team should see off Russia.
Let’s do away with it. Very few teams score. These days, attention spans are shorter, and I’m not sure what an extra half hour really achieves. Forget VAR, FIFA should make games go straight to penalties.
Ian’s Quarter-Final Predictions
Uruguay v France
Verdict: I don’t see this being high scoring. It depends on Cavani’s fitness and if Uruguay risk him. They still have a massive goal threat in Suarez and a terrific defence. France worry me at the back but have goals all over their team. This one could go all the distance, but I fancy France to snatch it late on.
Ian’s score: 1-2 (a.e.t)
Brazil v Belgium
Verdict: This will be a great game. Belgium dug themselves out of trouble the other night. This is definitely the Quarter Final I would choose to go to. Neymar is a fantastic player but needs to stop the rolling around – it’s doing my head in. I fancy Belgium to knock the Brazilians out.
Ian’s score: 1-2
Sweden v England
Verdict: We’ve only had one 0-0 so far and I fear this one could be the second. I think it might be penalties again, but it’ll be a low scoring game at the very least.
Sweden don’t score many goals, and I can’t see them overly troubling our defence. We haven’t kept a clean sheet so far which is a worry, but Trippier and Maguire have been magnificent, and Pickford showed his class the other night.
England on penalties – again!
Ian’s score: 0-0 (England through on penalties)
Russia v Croatia
Russia have been plucky. They were dead on their feet against Spain, defended well and were helped by the fact Spain were constantly trying to walk it in.
Croatia won’t make that mistake – and will surely end the Russian fairy-tale.
Ian’s score: 0-3
Do you agree with Ian’s thoughts?
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