Sweden and Switzerland combined to sully what has been an amazingly entertaining World Cup with a total borefest today that did little more than solidify how, without expertise at the apparently arcane art of kicking the ball good, soccer can sort of suck. Sweden won by a score of 1-0. Too bad both teams couldn’t have lost.
The two teams could’ve scored more goals than they did, or at least tested the keeper with on-target shots that would’ve elicited Ooooooos from spectators instead of Uhhhhhhs, but their finishing was atrocious. Almost every time one of the teams would work the ball into a dangerous area, the player closest to the ball would believe he was playing kickball and thump the ball with his toe, sending it sailing over the goal and into the stands. It was maddening.
The most egregious mishit came from one of the winners. With a perfect view of a great cross that was begging for a diving header to send it across the keeper’s body and into the net, Swedish midfielder Albin Ekdal instead tried to execute a wild, leaping side-kick at a ball coming at him about waist high and of course smashed the thing almost straight into the air:
The game was awash in this kind of kicking. Even the eventual winning goal, from Sweden’s Emil Forsberg, wasn’t that great of a shot and needed a deflection off a Swiss leg to beat the keeper:
The one truly great ball-kicker on the pitch, Xherdan Shaqiri, was unfortunately relegated to using his magic left foot to slap in countless crosses that rarely found the mark. Switzerland took 18 shots but only four were on target, so Sweden moves on to the quarterfinals. If England can get past Colombia today, they’ll take on the inaccurate Swedes—which means there’s a good chance England will blow it in a cruelly specific fashion.