Road to Russia: World Cup 2018 – Group F Preview
Group F is the subject of our next World Cup preview and what a group it is. World Cup holders Germany will embark on an attempt to defend their title, while they will be joined by Mexico, South Korea and Sweden at the group stage.
Germany’s record at this level is mind-boggling. The four time winners are the current holders and came third in both of the two tournaments prior. In fact, they have never failed to get out of the group stage and their worst finish is 10th, way back in 1938.
Joining them are Mexico, South Korea and Sweden, who, most likely, will be fighting over the remaining qualifying spot alongside Die Mannschaft. All those teams have pedigree in the competition, although this is Sweden’s first World Cup for twelve years.
Mexico made their way to Russia without losing a game and conceding just one goal in qualifying.
This will be their seventh consecutive World Cup finals and Mexico have the impressive record of making it past the group stages each time.
They may find it tough this time though, with group F looking a particularly tough one to navigate. Recent results haven’t been too encouraging either. El Tri were hammered by Chile 7-0 and have also lost against fellow Group F mates Germany by 4-1 in the Confederations Cup. But, they have beaten Poland and Iceland, along with drawing against Belgium, in 2018.
Mexico will face the mighty Germany in their first match on Sunday 17 June.
The star of the Mexico team is undoubtedly Chicharito. Little P has always excelled at international level and has 49 goals in 100 appearances. However, he hasn’t been a consistent starter for West Ham this season, so he may not be at his sharpest.
Elsewhere, Carlos Vela is always a danger and key to the attacking style of this Mexico team. The former Arsenal man never really shone in the Premier League, but he has 70 goals in 250 games for Real Sociedad playing on the wing.
Hirving Lonzano is a youngster that could feature and have the chance to impress. The striker has scored 19 goals for PSV Eindhoven in his first season at the club. Rafa Marquez has been given permission to feature after potentially missing out through legal issues, while Real Betis’ Andres Guardado is the man tasked with creating the goals for his team.
Perhaps the most consistent international team ever, Germany should be there or there abouts at the back end of this competition. They’ve made it out of their group every time since 1954 and no-one will be expecting them to slip up here.
As impressive as ever in qualifying, the hard work starts here. Defending a title has been a curse for most teams, but Die Mannschaft are the bookies’ favourites to lift the trophy again.
The strength and depth of this team can barely be matched, as highlighted when manager Joachim Löw sent his ‘B’ team to the Confederations Cup. Featuring mostly second string players under 24 years old, the team easily won the competition, providing those youngsters vital experience on the international stage.
That will make Germany even more formidable, but there may be one weakness this year. Manuel Neuer has missed much of the season with an ankle injury and it’s still not entirely sure whether he will be manning the sticks for his country. Nevertheless, this is a similar team to recent years that has been playing the same style under the same manager for some time now, which appears key to Germany’s success.
The whole German team is strong and while their players are of course world class, much of their effectiveness comes from their lightning fast style of play and familiarity of playing with each other.
That said, recent Champions League winner Toni Kroos is our favourite midfielder. Capable of controlling any game, he is usually joined in the middle by Juventus’ Sami Khedira.
The defence is almost impenetrable due to the presence of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng. Joshua Kimmich plays on the right side of defence and his rampaging runs are a feature of both club and country.
Potential ones to watch are Leroy Sane, who had an explosive first season at Manchester City, and Timo Werner, who may be the man to fill the Miroslav Klose shaped hole in Germany’s attack.
Sweden are back after a twelve year absence and they had to work hard to get here. Finishing second in a group containing France and the Netherlands, Sweden finished runners up in their group and then had to beat the mighty Italy in the play-offs, which they did, albeit rather unconvincingly.
The big news for Sweden is that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be in the squad. However, that could work to the team’s advantage, with many saying that the lack of a star name has led to a togetherness and improvement in performances.
That team ethic will be put to the test in this group and those who have claimed the Swedes have been punching above their weight could be proved right here. A limited attack is the biggest weakness, especially in tournament football, where wins are key.
Sweden face South Korea in their first match on Monday 18 June. This game is a must win and if Sweden manage it, they will stand every chance of going through.
Emil Forsberg is a key part of the recent success of RB Leipzig and was Sweden’s midfielder of the year in 2014, 2016 and 2017. A lot of responsibility will be on him, especially with the lack of a dangerous striker.
Viktor Lindelöf had been tipped to become one of the best defenders in the world, but he hasn’t started too many games for Manchester United in his first season at the club. He will still be key in defence though, especially as his teammates there are all ageing.
South Koreans will never forget the 2002 World Cup, where they co-hosted the competition and beat both Spain and Italy on their way to a fourth place finish.
The team hasn’t had much success since then, but they have qualified for the last nine World Cups, so they are a mainstay of at least the group stage.
Korea also had a tough time in qualifying, finishing a long way behind winners Iran and just ahead of both Syria and Uzbekistan to claim second place. While the team play well as a unit and have one or two star names, they will go into this group as the underdogs, and will need to pull off more than one upset to make it through.
Heung-min Son is without doubt the main man for South Korea. The Tottenham Hotspur player has had another great domestic season and is both a goal-scorer and creator.
It’s a fellow Premier League player that makes up the rest of South Korea’s key men. Ki Sung-Yeung, despite being relegated with Swansea, is a reliable midfielder and will be the one looking to release Heung-min Son as South Korea play their typical counter attacking style.
Which teams will qualify?
You’d have to be mad to bet against Germany going through. It seems an impossibility and the question is rather which team will be joining them.
The bookies fancy Mexico just ahead of Sweden and so do we. Mexico have a strong record at this level and their team looks superior to both Sweden and South Korea. You can get a fairly decent price on Mexico to qualify at around 11/10.