After each matchday of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Sportsnet.ca’s World Cup Daily blog will recap the day’s events, and look ahead to the next day’s slate of games.
Here’s what happened on Saturday, in case you missed it…
Sweden 0, England 2 in Samara: Match report || match stats
Russia 2, Croatia 2 (Croatia wins PK 4-3) in Sochi: Match report || match stats
MAIN TALKING POINTS
Pickford exemplifies English calm and control
The Three Lions continue to roar in Russia. England is through to its first World Cup semifinal in 28 years following a convincing win over Sweden in Samara on Saturday, a result that never looked in doubt for Gareth Southgate’s side right from the opening kickoff. This was as dominant and as complete a performance by the English at this competition – solid defence, controlling the midfield and dangerous in attack.
Sweden had chances, but there was never a sense that England was in serious danger of letting the game slip away from its tight control. Dele Alli became the fifth different player to score for England at this World Cup, its joint-most in a single edition of the tournament, as sure a sign as any that it isn’t all about Harry Kane, and that this is a balanced English attack.
What’s been most impressive about England at this World Cup is its calmness and control at all times. This English team has rarely lost its collective cool, maintaining an impressive equilibrium no matter the situation or what the opposition throws at them. That sense of calm and control is, perhaps, been best exemplified in the play of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Only 24 and having only earned a handful of caps prior to this tournament, the Everton shot-stopper is playing with a level of maturity and poise well beyond his years and relative international experience.
There’s been times at this World Cup when he’s been reduced to spectator, such has been the extent of English domination. Yet, when called upon, he’s come up big at critical moments. That was the case again on Saturday, as Pickford made a number of athletic and stellar saves to keep Sweden off the scoresheet and help England maintain the momentum. He’s also shown a key understanding of when to quickly distribute the ball to launch an attack, and when to take his time in order to slow things down in England’s favour.
Pickford has carried himself with a quiet confidence, as if this is all second-nature to him. There have been no wild celebrations or fist pumps with teammates after making a save. Instead, he’s looked like a stone-cold killer in between the posts, as though he’s simply doing his job and doesn’t quite understand why anybody would bother to make such a fuss. It’s that attitude that had carried Pickford and England through to the final four in Russia.
Croatian resolve sees them through
Like England, Croatia is back in the World Cup semifinals following a …read more