SAMARA, Russia — Having intentionally steered England into what’s widely considered the weaker half of the World Cup’s knockout bracket, Coach Gareth Southgate is now casting the upcoming quarterfinal against Sweden as “bloody difficult.”

Southgate sent out a crew of reserves who lost 1-0 to Belgium in their group-stage finale, and after both teams survived scares in the round of 16, Belgium now faces Brazil while England meets a Sweden side that gets far less respect.

But Sweden got to this same point by playing smart and unselfish soccer.

“Sweden are a team I respect hugely,” Southgate said Wednesday. “You know we’ve not got a good record against them. I think we’ve always underestimated them. They’ve got good players and they’ve got a clear way of playing. It’s bloody difficult to play against. They are greater than the sum of their parts more often than not.”

The teams meet Saturday for the right to advance to a semifinal against Russia or Croatia.

England and Sweden have met twice previously in World Cup play, a 2-2 draw in 2006 and a 1-1 draw in 2002. Overall, England has won just two of the last 15 meetings.

The last was an exhibition in 2012. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored four times to lead the Swedes to a 4-2 victory in Stockholm. Ibrahimovic is retired from international football now, and while Sweden has since forged a stout defensive identity, its post-Zlatan offense hasn’t inspired fear.

The English are coming off a tense but ultimately euphoric round of 16 game against Colombia. After giving up an injury-time equalizer that forced a 1-1 draw, England triumphed 4-3 in a shootout.

It was a morale booster for the Three Lions, who had been knocked out of three World Cups on penalties since 1990. Harry Kane said the young English side grew up a lot in that match.

“It shows the togetherness, shows the character,” said Kane, the team’s leading scorer. “We spoke about it before but these are the moments you really see it.”

England went 2-1 in the group stage to finish second to Belgium. The round was highlighted by Kane’s hat trick in a 6-1 thrashing of Panama. Kane leads the field in Russia with six goals.

Sweden finished atop its group to face Switzerland in the opening game of the knockout round. Emil Forsberg scored on a deflection in the 66th minute of a grinding 1-0 victory.

Coach Janne Andersson was asked afterward if Sweden has been underrated.

“I think you’ll have to ask everyone else that question. We know that we are a good team. We’ve earned our success. We know how we’ve got this far,” he said.

“What other teams and countries think about that, that’s not terribly interesting.”

Defender John Stones described Colombia as the “dirtiest team I’ve ever come up against” after the teams combined to get eight yellow cards in their encounter.

Stones said England “stuck to our game plan, never got into the brawl they wanted. At the end of the day they are on the plane back home.”

AN INFLUX of visitors for the quarterfinal between England and Sweden combined with a heat wave led city leaders in Samara, Russia, to urge residents to shower in pairs to save water.

The Samara Communal Systems utility company said it’s providing 10 percent more cold water than normal, causing water pressure to drop in some neighborhoods.

THE ROSTERS of the eight World Cup quarterfinalists include a record 11 players from English Premier League club Manchester City, one better than the old mark held by Bayern Munich of Germany.

French club Paris Saint-Germain has eight players in the quarterfinals.

BRAZIL: Right back Danilo is out of the World Cup after injuring his ankle in training.

The Brazilian soccer federation said Danilo suffered a ligament injury in his left ankle during the team’s training session a day before Brazil plays Belgium in the quarterfinals.

URUGUAY: Coach Oscar Tabarez isn’t saying whether striker Edinson Cavani has recovered from a left calf injury to play against France on Friday.

Tabarez said he doesn’t want to reveal “that information” because he believes it will give France an advantage.

DIEGO MARADONA apologized to FIFA after soccer’s governing body rebuked his comments criticizing American referee Mark Geiger’s work in England’s win over Colombia.