Ex-England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson has warned the Three Lions not to underestimate their World Cup quarter-final opponents Sweden.
Gareth Southgate’s men beat Colombia on penalties on Tuesday night to reach the last eight of a World Cup for the first time since Eriksson was in charge in 2006.
With Brazil, France, Uruguay and Belgium all in the other half of the draw, England fans are dreaming of progressing through a favourable schedule and winning the World Cup for just the second time.
However, Swedish-born Eriksson insists it would be foolish to dismiss England’s quarter-final opponents after they topped a group featuring Germany and Mexico before ousting Switzerland in the last 16.
“To score against Sweden is extremely difficult,” Eriksson told Sky Sports News.
“They have shown it so many times now. If England think they will have an easy match on Saturday that is a big mistake. I think it will be very difficult.
“England have the players individually to do something special. (Harry) Kane is one of them, (Raheem) Sterling is another, but when I tell you it is difficult to beat Sweden it is the truth.
“In the World Cup play-off, Italy couldn’t score in 180 minutes, Germany only scored (their winner) with a free-kick at the end.”
Eriksson was England’s first foreign manager when he was appointed in 2001 and he guided them to the quarter-finals at three successive major tournaments, only to see their run end there on each occasion.
At Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, Portugal knocked Eriksson’s Three Lions out on penalties, so the Swede was pleased to see Southgate’s class of 2018 banish their shoot-out hoodoo with victory over the Colombians in Moscow.
“Congratulations to England and Southgate,” he added. “It was great to see England win a penalty shoot-out. Mentally, they were very, very strong. I’m very happy for them.
“I think England can go very far in this tournament. They have good players and they seem to be very organised. They have young, hungry players. You saw yesterday (Tuesday), they were the better team and won it.”
Sweden will be forced into at least one change for the quarter-final clash in Samara as Celtic full-back Mikael Lustig will miss the game through suspension.
Yet Eriksson does not consider that a major issue given he thinks the team’s strength to be how it functions as a unit.
“If one is suspended, they will put in another one and you won’t know the difference,” he said.
“Sweden don’t have a Kane, Sterling or a Neymar. They are a collective team. They work extremely hard.”