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England beat Sweden 2-0 to reach World Cup semifinals

Harry Maguire and Dele Alli scored as England defeated Sweden 2-0 in Samara on Saturday to reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1990. Leicester defender Maguire headed in the opening goal from a corner on 30 minutes, with Alli adding a second just before the hour. Goalkeeper Jordan

Pickford then produced a series of crucial saves in the final half-hour to seal England’s long-awaited spot in the last four. It was just a second England victory over Sweden in nine competitive meetings, and sets up a clash with either hosts Russia or Croatia on July 11 in Moscow for a place in the final. Southgate stuck with the same team that overcame Colombia on penalties in the last 16, while Sebastian Larsson returned for Sweden after missing the 1-0 win over Switzerland through suspension.

England, the 1966 World Cup champion, last reached the semifinals in 1990. In 2014, the team didn’t even make it out of the group stage. But the performances of Gareth Southgate’s young lineup in Russia are being celebrated wildly back home.

The surprising run is being fuelled by goals from set pieces, and there was another against Sweden when Maguire headed in a corner in the 30th minute.

Alli added the second goal by meeting a far-post cross from Jesse Lingard with a powerful header in the 59th, becoming — at 22 — the second-youngest scorer for England at a World Cup.

“We knew set plays would be key,” Maguire said. “And also that little ball that Jesse sent in for Dele, that was great. We worked on that in practice.”

It proved to be a match too far for the Swedes, who got further at a World Cup then they ever did with Zlatan Ibrahimovic — the team’s star for more than a decade — by being compact and hard to break down. That helped them win a two-leg playoff against Italy to get to the World Cup, top a group containing Germany, and then beat Switzerland in the round of 16.

They began solidly against England in a slow and sloppy start to the game that resembled a pre-season friendly at times, only to be outdone by England’s eighth set-piece goal of its 11 in Russia.

The standard of England’s crossing has particularly stood out this tournament, and another brilliant delivery led to the second goal.

A chant of “On our way, on our way, to Moscow, on our way” came from England fans in one corner of the Samara Arena.

Although Sweden rallied in the final 30 minutes, forcing two good saves from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, England comfortably held on for its first shutout of the tournament.

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