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FIFA World Cup 2018: Group F Preview

Written by: Srinivasan

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The world champions are expected to top the group easily with the other teams battling it out for second spot.

The world's largest sporting spectacle is nearly upon us and we take a closer look at the group of the reigning world champions Germany. 

Group F will see Joachim Low's Germany pit their wits against South Korea, Mexico and Sweden. The bookies will no doubt bet on the world champions topping the group, but football is such that every team starts from zero in a World Cup, even if you are the holders. The Italians would know how that feels after they were unceremoniously dumped out in the group stages in the 2010 edition. 

Let's take a closer look at the four teams and how they are shaping up ahead of the big event. 


Germany



Factsheet

Last World Cup Finish: Champions (2014)

Best World Cup Finish: Champions (2014, 1990, 11974, 1954)

Manager: Joachim Low

Confederation: UEFA

Captain: Manuel Neuer/Jerome Boateng

FIFA Ranking: 1

Likely Formation: 4-2-3-1

Road to World Cup

The Germans, true to their persona of efficiency, ensured qualification to Russia as early as October with a thumping 5-1 win over Azerbaijan. The victory ensured that Low's men ended their campaign with 10 wins out of 10, a feat that was only achieved by 2010 champions Spain on their way to the World Cup in South Africa.

Manager

Low has been in-charge of the German national team since after the 2006 World Cup at home. The Germans impressed one and all with their attacking football and showcased some of the stars of the future in Phillip Lahm, Lukas Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Per Mertesacker.

While Jurgen Klinsmann took a huge share of the credit for this, it was Low's influence on the way football should be played that ensured fans saw German football in a new light. Since then, he has guided Die Mannschaft to three finals and three semi-final appearances in all major tournaments.

While his German team lost out narrowly to Spain at Euro 2008, the team showed the merits of their hard-work for nearly over a decade when they beat Lionel Messi's Argentina in Rio in 2014 to finally lift the World Cup and followed that with a win in the 2017 Confederations Cup with a second string squad. 

Squad

Players to Watch

One of the finest midfielders of his generation, Toni Kroos was a key component in the team that secured Germany’s fourth world title in 2014. He has won the UEFA Champions League with both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

Along with him, Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil are the pillars and the attacking wave-setters for the team. Mueller spearheaded the attack along with Mirsolav Klose in the previous edition, while Ozil amazed everyone with his creativity.

SWOT Analysis


Mexico

Factsheet

Last World Cup Finish (2014): Round of 16

Best World Cup Finish: Quarterfinals (1970,1986)

Manager: Juan Carlos Osorio

Confederation: CONCACAF

Captain: Andres Guardado

FIFA Ranking: 15

Likely Formation: 4-3-3/4-2-3-1

Road to World Cup

The Mexicans topped their qualifying group with a total of six wins out of 10 and booked their ticket to Russia with three games to spare. What would be heartening for fans to see is that they scored 16 goals in the process and also ensured that their illustrious neighbours, the USA, won't feature at the Russia showpiece. 

Manager

Juan Carlos Osorio, a manager who had seen much success at Atletico Nacional, was appointed the manager of the national team in 2015. Since then, he has guided El Tri to Russia and won plaudits from many a football fan for their commitment to attacking football. 

Squad

Players to Watch

Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer, Javier Hernandez appeared at South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014, scoring three times during those two global finals. Nicknamed ‘Chicharito’, the forward won the FIFA Club World Cup title with Real Madrid in 2014.

The player who has saved Mexico on many occasions, Guillermo Ochoa will be a nightmare for all the strikers in the World Cup. He is stronger and better than ever now.

Alongside him, La Liga defender Hector Moreno will be crucial to their performances in Russia.

SWOT Analysis



South Korea

Factsheet

Last World Cup Finish (2014): Group Stage

Best World Cup Finish: 2002 (4th place)

Manager: Shin Tae-yong

Confederation: AFC

Captain: Ki-sueng Yeung

FIFA Ranking: 61

Likely Formation: 4-2-3-1

Road to World Cup

After winning seven matches without conceding a goal, South Korea qualified for the third round of the AFC World Cup Qualifiers. However, the euphoria was soon to end as a series of poor results in this round, that included defeats to China and Qatar, saw head coach Uli Stielike sacked and replaced by Shin Tae-yong. 

The team managed to qualify as the second-placed side in their group following two goalless draws against Iran and Uzbekistan, sending South Korea to the World Cup for the ninth consecutive time

Manager

A former midfielder for the Taeguek Warriors, Shin Tae-yong helped the Korea Republic qualify for the Russian showpiece after the dismissal of Stielke. The tactician has previously coached the Korean U-20 team and led Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma to the AFC Champions League title in 2010. 

Squad


 

Players to Watch

Now heading for his third FIFA World Cup, Korea Republic captain Ki Sung-yueng has arguably become the nation’s most recognisable player. A technically gifted midfielder blessed in all aspects of the game, the Swansea City man has now spent six seasons in the English Premier League.

Alongside him, Son Heung-min and Lee Jae-sung are the other vital cogs for their team. While Son is amazing the world with his heroics at Tottenham Hotspur, Lee plays for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and featured in the Club World Cup in 2016.

SWOT Analysis

 


Sweden

Factsheet

Last World Cup Finish (2006): Round of 16

Best World Cup Finish: Runners-up (1958)

Manager: Janne Andersson

Confederation: UEFA

Captain: Andreas Granqvist

FIFA Ranking: 23

Likely Formation: 4-2-3-1

Road to World Cup

The Swedes were drawn in Group A of the UEFA qualifying campaign where they managed to win six, draw draw and lose three games of their campaign.

They edged the Netherlands to second place on goal-difference and famously met Italy over two legs where a strong defensive performance saw them beating the Azzurri 1-0 over two legs and ensured that they would compete in Russia. 

Manager

The mere fact that Sweden will finally play a World Cup game for the first time since 2006, is a testament to the coach's influence in the side. Janne Andersson is a coach with vast experience and knows what it takes for underdogs to upset the odds, as he led IFK Norrkoping to a Swedish league title in 2015.

Taking over the side in the wake of Euro 2016, the Swede has overseen a transition in a squad that has previously relied heavily on individual talents such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Squad

Players to Watch

Thriving in the spotlight following the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcus Berg has provided power, panache and plenty of goals for Andersson’s Sweden. The Al Ain striker scored eight times during the Qualifiers.

Victor Lindelof has been solid in the backline with Sebastian Larsson being majorly responsible for dominating the midfield.

SWOT Analysis



Fixtures

17 June 2018 - Germany v Mexico, 8:30 pm (IST)

18 June 2018 - Sweden v Korea Republic, 5:30 pm (IST)

23 June 2018 - Korea Republic v Mexico, 8:30 pm (IST)

23 June 2018 - Germany v Sweden, 11:30 pm (IST)

27 June 2018 - Korea Republic v Germany, 7:30 pm (IST)

27 June 2018 - Mexico v Sweden, 7:30 pm (IST)

What to Expect

Looking at the group, its pretty obvious that if things go to plan, the Germans will top the group being one of favourites to clinch the crown once again. The remaining spot is up for grabs and the three other teams will leave no stone unturned to book their place on the last 16 in Russia.

The odds are high with Mexico to clinch second place, looking at their record on the big stage, but both Sweden and South Korea have more than what it takes to produce an upset.

Published: Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:34 AM IST

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