But it was a classic.
Alongside Manchester City duo John Stones and Kyle Walker, he saw out England's first clean sheet of the tournament - a factor that will have pleased Southgate no end, after expressing his desire to see defensive improvements during Friday's pre-match news conference.
That, in itself, was another sign of progress. In 2014, the team didn't even make it out of the group stage. That record speaks for itself.
Getting past a technically adept Croatia side won't be easy, but the Three Lions have the strength at the back, along with the pace and power in forward areas, to overpower Modric and Co. if they are at their best. Playing today was different from previous matches because Sweden play a long ball more than our previous opponents.
It's still coming home, by the way..
In a goalless opening half-hour it was hard work.More news: '17 champ Muguruza, finalist Cilic out in Wimbledon upsets
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"Yes I definitely believe England are good enough to win the World Cup". It came from a rare moment when they quickened the pace to earn that opportunity.
Viktor Claesson drilled over for Sweden early on with an ambitious attempt from distance, while Harry Kane, the tournament's leading scorer with six goals, dragged wide after a penetrating run by Raheem Sterling.
The lively Sterling should have doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time when he brilliantly controlled Jordan Henderson's lofted pass, but he was unable to find a way past Robin Olsen and his follow-up was blocked by Andreas Granqvist.
In the second half, Sweden looked unsafe as England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was forced to produce a stunning save after Marcus Berg's towering header looked destined for the back of the net.
It proved so important. Some lovely possession and patience resulted in the ball at Jesse Lingard's feet atop the box.
Alli, whose place had been under threat, drifted away from Emil Krafth and planted a firm header over the hands of Olsen.