Emil Forsberg’s goal on a deflection in the 66th minute stood as the match-winner as Sweden advanced to its first World Cup quarterfinal in 24 years with a 1-0 victory over Switzerland on Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
Forsberg, who had entered the match with a team-high 12 shots, was causing the Swiss fits all match long as he constantly cut inside from the left. He made such a move to get open as Ola Toivonen had the ball at the top of the penalty area on the left and passed to his right.
Forsberg let the ball run to his right until he was straight on and let fly from 20 yards with a shot that Swiss central defender Manuel Akanji tried to clear over the line, but the delflection off his right foot flew into the upper left corner as keeper Yann Sommer stood wrong-footed and helpless.
Switzerland did not create many clear-cut chances in its bid for an equalizer in the final 25 minutes, though Sweden keeper Robin Olsen was challenged in the 91st minute as he got down to his left to stop a header by Haris Seforovic from six yards off a corner.
The Blagult did an excellent job killing the match off around that opportunity. They nearly had a penalty in the 93rd minute when Martin Olsson was hauled down from behind by Michael Lang, who was issued a straight red card by referee Damir Skomina for denying a clear scoring opportunity.
Skomina consulted VAR to make sure the foul had occurred inside the penalty area, but the review showed Lang fouled Olsson just outside the 18. While Toivonen’s well-struck free kick was stopped by Sommer, it was the last act of the match as Sweden advanced to its first quarterfinal since a third-place finish in 1994 and second since finishing runner-up as host in 1958.
The Blagult will play the winner of the Colombia-England match in the quarterfinals Saturday in Samara.
Switzerland, which played without starting defenders Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar as they served yellow-card suspensions, was denied its first quarterfinal appearance since hosting the 1954 World Cup. Despite taking 18 shots and having almost 65 percent possession, Die Nati had only four shots on target as they made their second straight exit in the round of 16.
Sweden got out of the blocks quickly, and Marcus Berg should have done better in the eighth minute when he lashed a shot wide of the right post from 10 yards. A Swiss turnover added to the anxiety but Albin Ekdal blazed over the bar from 18 yards in the 10th minute.
While Die Nati were putting chances through, they were not severely testing Olsen as he comfortably saved on a tight-angle shot from Blerim Dzemaili after he was sent through by Xherdan Shaqiri. Switzerland was funneling its attack through Shaqiri as he played in his customary attacking role from the right, but his crosses were lacking their usual accuracy to severely threaten Sweden’s back four.
Sweden’s best chance to score in the first half came in the 27th minute when Berg hit a knockdown left-footed shot from 10 yards across goal trying to pick out the lower left corner, but Sommer dove to his right and was able to push it around the post with his right hand.
Switzerland had a quality chance in the 38th minute as Dzemaili and Steven Zuber worked a nice 1-2 on the left, but Dzemaili blazed over the bar from 15 yards as he sought the upper right corner on the return pass.
Ekdal spurned another scoring chance in the 40th minute, volleying well over the bar with an open net from seven yards when a header would have sufficed after being well-picked out by Mikael Lustig.
Lustig will miss the quarterfinal after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament for a pull on Jossip Drmic just after the half-hour.