ST PETERSBURG, Russia-Sweden barged their way into the World Cup quarter-finals when Emil Forsberg's heavily deflected shot gave them a 1-0 win over Switzerland in a scrappy last-16 contest on Tuesday.
The Europeans have in fact fired first-half blanks on three occasions now, against Brazil, Serbia and Sweden respectively; their only strike within the first 45 minutes came against minnows Costa Rica after the nation had already guaranteed their qualification to the knock-out rounds.
During the opening stages of the game, both Xherdan Shaqiri and Steven Zuber failed to threaten with long-range strikes and Sweden nearly capitalised when Marcus Berg was played through on goal, only for the forward to slice a half-volley well wide of the target. It took 66 minutes, but he managed to break the deadlock after finding space on the edge of the box before firing past a hapless Yann Sommer.
Switzerland pushed for an equalizer but Sweden closed ranks at the back, keeping the sixth-ranked side in the world at bay to record their third clean sheet of the tournament.
It was not the most compelling Round of 16 tie, but Sweden will not mind one bit as progress past the second round of the competition for the first time since 1994. They haven't scored in a knockout game in soccer's biggest tournament in 64 years, when they last reached in the quarterfinals at home in 1954.
Ibrahimovic, 36 and now playing out his illustrious career in the United States, would surely have put away some of the first-half chances created by his countrymen against a fragile Switzerland defence which was missing the suspended Fabian Schaer and Stephan Lichtsteiner.
Sweden went into their clash with Switzerland having topped Group F thanks to wins over Mexico and South Korea, but the Swiss also had reason to be confident after qualifying unbeaten from Group E.
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The team will have Sebastian Larsson back from a ban, however, and the holding midfielder should go straight back into the starting lineup.
Albin Ekdal managed to outdo his team-mate with an even worse miss as he blazed a chance over from close range just before half-time. Then, in the second half, Xhaka lined up a shot from outside the area and very almost whiffed.
Sweden were given a late penalty when Michael Lang was sent off for bringing down Martin Olsson when through on goal, but after consulting VAR the foul was judged to be outside the area and a free-kick awarded instead.