Sweden meet Switzerland in their World Cup last 16 game in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, aiming to progress in the side of the draw that is seen as being wide open.
The so-called right-hand side of the last 16 draw has already seen Russia and Croatia progress to a quarter-final meeting, and the winner of Tuesday’s game in St. Petersburg will face either England or Colombia.
That means the tournament will definitely feature a team in the final from not among the favorites at the outset – and the Swedes and Swiss will aim to take a step towards that.
Switzerland, ranked sixth in the world by FIFA, emerged from a tricky group unbeaten, drawing with Brazil in their opening game before coming from behind to beat Serbia in a thrilling second game. They had to settle for a 2-2 draw against Costa Rica in their final game after conceding a late equalizer.
The Swiss head into the game without two key players in defence, with Fabian Schar and captain Stephan Lichtsteiner both serving one-game bans for picking up two yellow cards in the group stage.
Michael Lang will come in for Lichtsteiner at right-back, while one of Johan Djourou or Nico Elvedi Schar will step in at centre-back.
They will look to the midfielder enforcer Granit Xhaka to dominate the center of the park, while Xherdan Shaqiri will pose a threat going forward.
The pair were both involved in controversy during the Serba game, when they celebrated by making the sign of the Albanian eagle - earning them a fine from FIFA.
Sweden came through a thrilling group stage campaign which saw them open with a 1-0 win against South Korea before suffering an agonizing injury-time defeat to Germany in Sochi. However, they then thumped Mexico 3-0 in their final game to secure top spot.
Swedish boss Janne Andersson will have to make at least one change to the team, with midfielder Sebastian Larsson suspended.
HEAD TO HEAD
The pair have met 28 times previously, with Sweden on 10 wins and Switzerland on 11. However, this will be the pair’s first meeting at the finals of a major tournament. Switzerland have the weight of history against them, and have not scored at a knockout stage of the World Cup since 1954. However, Sweden have not won a knockout game at the World Cup for 24 years.