Only three clubs conceded fewer goals than Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga last season, thanks in no small part to a Swedish left full-back by the name of Ludwig Augustinsson.
A name which may not have been so familiar only a month ago, followers of the 2018 FIFA World Cup will now be able to appreciate why only Bayern Munich, Schalke and VfB Stuttgart conceded fewer than a side who finished 11th, because Augustinsson is doing for his country just what he did at club level last term – refusing to let anybody past.
If you wanted to inflict damage on Bremen last term, the right wing was an area to avoid. Indeed, only five of the 40 goals the northern Germany side conceded came on the side of the field that Augustinsson was watching like a hawk, rendering that the most secure defensive channel of any Bundesliga club in 2017/18.
His performances in Russia have been equally eye-catching, with Sweden conceding only two goals on their way to the last eight. Both came against Germany – the second deep into stoppage time – depriving them of what would have been an impressive unbeaten record.
Next up are England, who face Sweden in the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday, and they might be wise to abandon any hope of trying to score down Augustinsson's side of the field. At the same time, however, they will need to hatch a plan to keep the full-back quiet, because not only is he a taming influence, he also needs to be tamed.
In his 29 Bundesliga outings last term, the 24-year-old delivered 84 crosses, 14 of which led to a shot on goal. Only the Bundesliga's assist-master Max proved more prolific from a wide berth, although nearly 29 per cent of his passes did not reach their target. Augustinsson's accuracy rate, on the other hand, was significantly higher, with only 18 per cent going wayward – and that's from a total touching 1,000.
Covering an average of 7.2 miles per 90 minutes, Augustinsson's work-rate was also among the highest in the league for his position. England's work-rate is therefore going to have to be consonant to keep their World Cup hopes alive, especially since Sweden's confidence levels are rising by the game.
Augustinsson may not yet be a household name, but England will be very wary of him and his Sweden teammates in the quarter-final. The Swedes have done a good job of upsetting the odds in the last year.
"We beat Italy, France, came ahead of Holland [in qualifying], so anything's possible," said Augustinsson. "Everyone wants to see something special – expectations are high among the fans."
Thanks to a certain Bremen defender, those expectations are justifiably high as Sweden prepare for their first World Cup quarter-final since USA 1994, when they went on to finish third, and deliver that something special in Samara.