Written off before a ball was kicked, England and Sweden are now two games away from the World Cup final. While The Three Lions are hoping “it’s coming home”, that’s exactly where Sweden want to send them.
What started as an inside joke between friends has now swept the Internet. Frank Skinner and David Baddiel’s iconic anthem “Three Lions” is fueling World Cup fever in England as hopes rise that Gareth Southgate’s young team can reach the semifinals for the first time since 1990.
While previous head coaches have often tapered expectations at major tournaments, following England’s nail-biting penalty shoot-out win, Southgate is urging his charges to seize their chance.
“It’s a great opportunity, and although our team will be individually better in two years, we might not have this opportunity again,” he told the BBC.
While Jamie Vardy is expected to miss out through injury, Golden Boot front runner Harry Kane will look to add to the six goals he’s scored already, not that the individual award is his priority.
“My target isn’t the Golden Boot,” said the Three Lions captain. “The target is to win the tournament. That’s always been the target. If the Golden Boot comes along with that then perfect, but the target is to help the team. If my goals help the team, brilliant. If not I’ll be running round, working hard, trying to get assists. And that’s all I can do.”
Keeping Kane quiet will be of the utmost priority for Sweden on Saturday. Captain Andreas Granqvist, whose wife gave birth to his baby daughter early on Friday, is hoping his side can neutralize the tournament’s top scorer.
“We know they have Harry Kane,” Granqvist said after Sweden’s training session. “He is really dangerous in the penalty box, so we need to be very strong in the box and try to make sure that they don’t get the service that they need.”
England and Sweden have met twice previously in World Cup play, a 2-2 draw in 2006 and a 1-1 draw in 2002. If it ends all square on Saturday, then England may just have to rely on their prowess from the penalty spot all over again.