Sweden were bad, Slovakia were worse, but Alexander Isak was pretty damn good…
“I’ll cover Sweden v Slovakia,” said this utter moron. I offered for two reasons: 1) to allow enough time to be properly hydrated ahead of England v Scotland; 2) the opening games of both sides suggested there would be some interesting individual battles and tactical intrigue.
Would Milan Skriniar cope with the ebullience and quality of Alexander Isak? Would Ondrej Duda be able to reproduce his excellent display against Poland? How would Sweden’s rigid 4-4-2 match up against the more fluid Slovakia and the interchange of their front four? Hmmm, yes, a fascinating prospect.
I was cursing my stupidity at half-time. There was no intrigue, no quality and neither team seemed to know where they were or what was at stake. The only note I had made at the break was Juraj Kucka heading a Marek Hamsik corner harmlessly over the bar; that was in the fifth minute. It was pure drudgery.
That was more understandable for Slovakia, who would have all-but sealed their place in the last 16 with a draw, but one point for Sweden would have left them needing a win against Poland in their last game. They were so, so passive. They were so, so boring.
Fortunately, Sweden realised that necessity after half-time, or at least Isak did. This guy is really something.
And he nearly scored the goal of the tournament. Having picked the ball up in the centre circle, he sidestepped one challenge, tip-tapped and outmuscled his way past another, before leaving the same opponent – who came back for more – on the floor a moment later. Now 30 yards from goal, he did a stepover to leave another retreating Slovakian for dead, powered towards the area, left another casualty on the edge of the box and hit a sweet drive that was just saved at the near post.
Isak looks special 🇸🇪 pic.twitter.com/JDsKiRQHi4
— FIFA 21 News (@FUT21News) June 18, 2021
He’s big, quick, with an excellent first touch and appears currently to be treading the line between confidence and arrogance; a line his absent compatriot – who he will inevitably be compared to – ignored many moons ago. Isak’s a special talent and he’s already established himself – like Zlatan Ibrahimovic – as not only the talisman of Sweden, but their only real source of quality.
It may have been a tactical change from Janne Andersson, but it looked more like Isak has just got a bit tired of his teammates being quite so terrible. He dropped deeper and moved away from Skriniar (turns out the Inter Milan star was coping with him rather well) and completely changed the energy and impetus of his side.
Sweden were a lot better after half-time and deserved the win in the end. Martin Dubravka pulled off an absolutely remarkable save but was then beaten from the penalty spot. It was Isak’s pass that resulted in the penalty being awarded, though it wasn’t entirely clear whether he meant it – it was marvellous if he did.
And we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, because Zlatan would have assured us he meant it and sshhh… Isak is a bit like him.