Perhaps Sweden and Switzerland were not the sides that were initially fancied to progress to the knockout stages in this World Cup, yet the pair find themselves in the last 16 with one of the two set to reach the quarter-final. A 3-0 win over Mexico was enough to see Switzerland top their group, a result that will surely give Janne Andersson and his men confidence in the knockout stages.
That this side caused a stir by eliminating Italy in a two-legged qualifying playoff back in November, the first time the Azzurri had missed out on a World Cup in 60 years. Sweden must not be underestimated therefore, their tenacity in getting the desired result one of their biggest strengths.
The Coach had also made the difficult decision to exclude star veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic from the squad, and has forged a group with a very tight-knit attitude.
"You've seen that we are a very tight squad," Sweden Captain Andreas Granqvist told reporters following racist abuse suffered by team-mate Jimmy Durmaz after a mistake that led to Germany’s last-minute goal in the second group game. "We stick together and fight together on and off the pitch. We've come together as a group and have given Jimmy full support. He's a strong person and looking to the future. We are even stronger and we'll be able to show that on the pitch tomorrow."
That they did with the aforementioned victory over Mexico and have proven to be a real force to be reckoned with even without the “lion” that Ibrahimovic proclaims to be. Yet it is important not to forget that Switzerland came through a group that also contained Brazil, Serbia and Costa Rica having earned a credible 1-1 draw with the five-time champions in the opening match.
They too have a real team ethic and have emerged as one of a number of hard-working sides in this tournament and are the subject of plenty of activity at top football bookies.
While this is expected to be a tough battle between the teams, Sweden just edge their opponents in terms of form, with BetBright offering 2/1 for football betting fans on the Scandinavians to win the match. Switzerland last made it to the World Cup quarter-finals back in 1954 on home soil, and since then they have been knocked out every time they have made it to the round of 16.
Furthermore, Switzerland boss Vladimir Petkovic will be forced to make changes to a well-drilled starting XI, with Captain and new Arsenal signing Stephan Lichtsteiner suspended along with Fabian Schar and Stephan Zuber a doubt due to illness. Their opponents should only be forced into one change as Gustav Svensson is set to replace injured Sebastian Larsson in the midfield.
Switzerland did pull off an impressive run of results in qualifying with nine wins from 10 matches and lost out only on goal difference to Portugal in the final standings. They may find a way to penetrate Sweden, but the latter should be able to pull off the final victory and a bet on a 2-1 scoreline at 11/1 via Karamba is well worth considering.
This outfit also enjoy scoring in the second half. No less than 11 from 14 of their total World Cup strikes have come in the second 45 minutes including four from five goals netted in Russia 2018. You can understandably only find even odds for this outcome, however Bet365 offer 7/4 on over 1.5 second half goals in this match.
Gavranovic is expected to retain his place in the Swiss starting lineup over number nine Haris Seferovic but neither forward has been able to make any kind of impression in the tournament so far.
The latter failed to make a single shot on goal in 80 minutes versus Brazil and 45 minutes in the next match versus Serbia, and his replacement Gavranovic didn’t fare much better either. He would complete just four of nine attempts to make a pass in 69 minutes of action in the final group game with Costa Rica.
The Coach is not adverse to swapping the misfiring forwards during the match and 888sport offer a bet well worth considering at 9/1 that Seferovic hits either the post or the crossbar and fails to score.
It is no surprise therefore, that Switzerland had 14 unique goalscorers in the qualifying campaign, and Stoke City attacker Xherdan Shaqiri remains one of the most potent of those threats for the upcoming encounter with Sweden. The 26-year-old remains the only Swiss player to have scored in the knockout stages of a major tournament with a stunning overhead kick versus Poland in Euro 2016.
The Premier League star is available via 888sport at 14/5 to score anytime in this round of 16 clash, a bet well worth making considering his previous form in firing in a late winner versus Serbia. Shaqiri is also 5/1 with the same site to provide an assist and 20/1 to score and assist in the match, an enticing prospect indeed considering he already has one of each in the tournament and contributed a tally of eight goals and seven assists to an ailing Stoke side last term.