On Saturday Englands burgeoning hopes of long-awaited international success hinge on seeing off unfancied Scandinavian opponents who are widely seen as game but ultimately inferior. Sound familiar?
Two years ago it was Iceland who knocked England off their pedestal with a 2-1 victory in Nice. It proved the pinnacle of a run to the quarter-finals at Euro 2016, hammered the final nail into the coffin of Roy Hodgsons tenure and inflicted trauma on a disbelieving nation.
This time it is Sweden in Samara standing between Gareth Southgates team and a first World Cup semi-final appearance since 1990. It could be the most significant win yet seen by a new generation of England supporters. Either way, the evidence suggests its unlikely to be easy.
Scars from that elimination by Iceland may be fresher but the English psyche bears more than its fair share of marks from previous battles with Sweden, who have taken to the clashes with relish.
The nadir was the hosts comeback win in Solna at Euro 92, sealed by a glorious goal by Tomas Brolin, which saw Graham Taylors beleaguered bunch finish bottom of their group and exit the tournament in disgrace.
It spawned the infamous headline “Swedes 2, Turnips 1” in The Sun, which superimposed manager Taylors face onto the root vegetable.
England were wounded in a more literal sense in a 1989 World Cup qualifier in Stockholm, with Terry Butchers white shirt rendered almost entirely scarlet by blood seeping from a head wound suffered in the hard-fought 0-0 draw.
Other notable encounters include a 1-1 draw in Saitama, Japan, during the group stage of the 2002 World Cup. Sol Campbell headed England in front only for Niclas Alexandersson to equalise in the second half.
Four years later they met again in Cologne, where Sweden twice hit back to claim a 2-2 draw. Time and again, they have proven to be obstinate foes.
Danny Welbeck scored the winner as England beat Sweden at Euro 2012 (Source: Getty)
Only eight times in 24 fixtures have England beaten them – and half of those victories came in the first four matches between the nations – with nine draws and seven Swedish triumphs.
The Three Lions have won just one of their last eight competitive meetings, although that was the most recent: a harum-scarum 3-2 at Euro 2012 clinched by Danny Welbecks back-heeled goal.
If Sweden have traditionally been set up as hard to beat, rarely can that have been more true than now. They have kept three clean sheets from their four games in Russia so far, a feat of old-fashioned toil that has beaten the more celebrated likes of Mexico and Switzerland and seen their massed ranks described in some despatches as “a yellow wall”.
Coach Janne Andersson has forged a team-first mentality in the post-Zlatan Ibrahimovic era of the last two years, with no stars to speak of.
Sweden coach Janne Andersson is known for his touchline outbursts (Source: Getty)
Andersson himself, who rose to prominence by leading unheralded IFK Norrkoping to the Swedish title in 2015, is known for his fiery temper on the touchline. He also betrayed a measure of cunning by sending an assistant to spy on Group F rivals South Koreas training sessions before the tournament.
In a farcical coda, the spy was busted and Korean officials made their players train in kit sporting the wrong squad numbers on the basis that Westerners wouldnt be able to tell them apart. Nonetheless, Sweden beat them 1-0 in their opening game in Russia.
Sweden are aiming to match the class of 1994, who reached the semi-finals (Source: Getty)
Swedens greatest performance at a major tournament was the 1994 teams run to the World Cup semi-finals in the United States.
Newspaper Aftonbladet was quick to install this years crop as the next best after their 1-0 win over Switzerland in the last 16, while Andersson promised they were “not satisfied” yet. He added: “Its full steam ahead and, God dammit, we are going to put in a bloody good match.”
Icelands Three Lions-tamers shared more than just a loose geographical association and a belligerent streak with Sweden.
Their qualification for a first European Championship was overseen by joint manager Lars Lagerback, who crossed swords with England four times – winning once and drawing three times – in almost a decade in charge of his native Sweden.
Iceland stunned England by knocking them out of Euro 2016 (Source: Getty)
Iceland forward Jon Dadi Bodvarsson later revealed that Lagerback had filled his players with confidence by assuring them that England were “the most overrated team he had ever played against”.
Despite Southgate and his squads more likeable image at home, former Sweden midfielder Hakan Mild has taken a leaf out of Lagerbacks book, painting the current England side as another rabble of prima donnas.
“They think they are so good; theyre not,” Mild, who had a brief spell at Wimbledon at the turn of the century, said this week. “They are spoilt children who earn a lot of money. They dont have the desperation needed.”
Milds comments add to the feeling that Sweden would like little better than to get one over on England – home to Premier League clubs with huge followings throughout Scandinavia who have historically cherry-picked talent from the region – one more time on Saturday.
England beat Colombia on penalties to reach the quarter-finals (Source: Getty)
In Southgates favour is that this England teams energy, positivity and togetherness make them unrecognisable from the one that fell to Iceland and other incarnations that have so often disappointed on this stage.
On Tuesday they laid one ghost of tournaments past to rest with their penalty shoot-out triumph against Colombia in Moscow. To reach the semi-finals and keep the dream of a second World Cup alive they must prove they have left old traits behind and banish another familiar spectre.