SAMARA, Russia (Reuters) – England challenged almost three decades of disappointment to enter the World Cup semifinals with confidence for the first time since 1990, when the headlines of Harry Maguire and Dele Alli defeated a tenacious but toothless Sweden 2-0 on Saturday.
The most imaginary sides of England had not made it to the last four in the past, but Gareth Southgate's young squad caught on while they continued to mock the cushioned expectations before the tournament with another impressive display in Russia.
They set off when Maguire rose imperiously to return home from a corner and Alli added the killer hit after the break, as England proved that they did not completely depend on the top scorer of the Harry Kane tournament for goals.
In any case, the hero of England on the day was at the other end of the field, while goalkeeper Jordan Pickford produced three magnificent saves to exclude the Swedish workers.
"We had to put up with a lot of physical pressure," England coach Gareth Southgate said. "The ability to recover from the team and the team's union today was crucial, today our spirit was as good as yours and our quality a little better."
The fans who sang their side at the Samara Arena stayed long after full time to announce the achievement, knowing that with so many of the favorites having departed, England has possibly its best chance of world glory in more than half a century .
Hosts from Russia or Croatia, who will face each other later on Saturday and are worse ranked than Southgate, are the only ones between England and a first World Cup final since they won the tournament in their homeland in 1966.
victory, only his third quarterfinal success in nine attempts, was largely a one-sided affair, no doubt it was not easy.
Sweden had reached the quarterfinals by making life difficult for a supposedly superior opposition and it was easy to see why after a difficult opening when England seemed unable to chain pbades against their working opponents.
It was predictable in many ways, therefore, that the deadlock was broken from an established piece.
England had worked without reward before Ashley Young lined up in a corner on the left and his stooping effort found Maguire charging with conviction and pulling Emil Forsberg out of his way to propel a header towards the network.
That was England's eighth set goal in this World Cup, but, although they are lethal dead balls, apart from Kane, they are not blessed by many other sharpshooters.
Adelante Raheem Sterling has faced Some criticism about his fight to score for England and just before halftime his skeptics were given ammunition when he was left twice alone to beat the Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen.
The lineman's flag saved his blushes when he missed the first opportunity, but moments later he ran again, this time trying to surround the goalie, only to be denied once again.
England was almost forced to pay immediately after the interval and would have been retained if Pickford had not produced a save in the first box to avoid a header from Marcus Berg.
The importance of the goalkeeper's contribution was quickly underlined, as England doubled their advantage in the 59th minute when Jesse Lingard put the cross in the box and Alli left unmarked at the far post to pbad powerfully over Olsen.
England had not kept a clean sheet in their previous four games and had to thank Pickford for making sure they did not give in this time.
He saved superbly from Viktor Claesson before throwing a shot from Berg over the crossbar and that was enough to ensure that Sweden's hopes of reaching their first semifinal since 1994 were frustrated.
"I was not born the last time England reached the semifinals of the World Cup," Pickford said. "We have always said that we would take one game at a time and we can continue and create our own story."
Toby Davis report; Editing by Ken Ferris