World Cup 2018: Group F preview
The current world champions, Germany, return to the global stage in Russia this summer hoping to become the first country since Brazil in 1962, to retain the World Cup trophy.
Joachim Low has been in charge of Die Manschaft since 2006 and has had a very successful spell.
Since Low became manager, Germany have not exited an international tournament before the semi final stage.
Germany are always one of the favourites for every tournament that they participate in and have a brilliant track record at the World Cup.
The Champions Curse!
However, in recent tournaments, the World Champions often haven’t faired well in the subsequent tournament.
France won the World Cup in 1998 before failing to qualify from the Group stage in 2002, Italy won the 2006 tournament before failing to qualify from the group stage in 2010 and that year’s winners Spain, suffered from the same ‘Champions curse’ in 2014.
Surely that couldn’t happen to the Germans could it?
Are Mexico a dark horse at the 2018 World Cup?
Germany are joined in Group E by Mexico, Sweden and South Korea.
Mexico will be participating in their 7th consecutive World Cup finals this year.
They have never progressed past the quarter finals and could find it difficult yet again this year.
Interestingly, Mexico haven’t failed to progress past the group stage since 1966 and have one of the more experienced sides at the tournament.
Guillermo Ochoa became a worldwide sensation for his heroics at the 2014 World Cup against Brazil but the Mexicans will be hoping for a hero at the other end of the pitch in Russia.
Sweden are back!
Sweden return to the World Cup finals after a 12 year absence.
The Swedes last competed in 2006 where they were knocked out in the last 16 against fellow group members, Germany.
Sweden’s best finish at a World Cup was in 1994, when they finished 3rd after an agonising defeat in the semi final to eventual champions, Brazil.
What will South Korea do in Russia?
South Korea are the final team in Group E.
The Koreans stunned the World in 2002 when they finished 4th on home soil.
That year was monumental for Asian football as South Korea knocked European giants such as Italy and Spain out of the tournament.
Russia 2018 will be South Korea’s ninth World Cup in a row, a remarkable record for a country with so few global stars.
Four years is a long time in football and there are very few survivors from Germany’s World Cup winning squad of 2014.
Captain Phillip Lahm, along with Bastain Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose and Per Mertesacker have all retired from international football, if not altogether.
Germany took qualification by storm, winning all 10 of their matches scoring an average of 4.3 goals per game.
Twenty one different players (plus own goal) scored for Germany in qualification.
Unlike some countries, Germany don’t have one stand-out player, demonstrated by the previous statistic.
Scoring goals is clearly not a problem for the Germans but keeping them out seems to be even easier.
Manuel Neuer is known to be one of the world’s best goalkeepers and, despite serious injuries this season, he should be fit in time for The World Cup.
The big problem for Joachim Low will be selecting the side due to the vast amount of amazing players.
Germany’s key men
Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) & Timo Werner (RB Leipzig)
It is hard to choose three key players for Germany and the fact that Mats Hummels, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos have all not made the cut shows just how good the German squad really is.
Boateng plays an instrumental role at the heart of the German defence and almost nothing gets past him.
Mesut Ozil has won Germany’s player of the year award in five out of the last seven years and assists goals with ease for his country.
Thomas Muller has scored 5 goals in each of the previous two World Cup tournaments but needs seven goals this time if he wants to become Germany’s all time leading goal scorer at the World Cup finals.
Timo Werner seems to have taken Muller’s limelight since he broke onto the scene.
The 21 year old was incredible with RB Leipzig last year and has scored 7 goals in 10 appearances for the German national team.
Mexico have never had any success at the World Cup but are one of America’s most successful sides winning the CONCACAF Cup ten times.
There are a number of players in the Mexico side that won Olympic gold medals in London during the 2012 games.
The Mexicans qualified for the World Cup top of their qualification group without losing a match.
They only conceded one goal in the 6 matches that they played, a penalty from El Salvador’s Alexander Larín.
Mexico have progressed past the group stage of every World Cup that they have played in since 1986.
Javier Hernandez needs just two goals to become Mexico’s greatest ever goal scorer at the World Cup finals.
Mexico’s key men
Javier Hernandez (West Ham), Carlos Vela (LAFC), Jesús Manuel Corona (Porto)
Javier Hernandez became Mexico’s all time erasing goalscorer when he netted against Croatia in 2017.
Chicharito is not having a great season at West Ham, scoring just 5 goals all season.
Former Arsenal man Carlos Vela was never really given a chance at the Emirates (much to the dismay of many Arsenal fans) but has enjoyed a successful spell at Real Sociedad before he begins his adventure in the MLS with Los Angeles FC.
Vela played 250 games for Sociedad, scoring 70 goals which is a pretty decent record for a winger.
Jesús Corona was Mexico’s top scorer in qualification with 3 goals.
The 25 year old will need to be in top form if Mexico are to progress from this very tough group.
Gianluigi Buffon will not end his professional footballing career at this summer’s World Cup due to Jakob Johansson;s goal against him, for Sweden, in the World Cup qualifying play-off match.
Sweden were deserved winners and will play in Russia this summer after a tough time in a seriously competitive qualification group.
Sweden finished second, behind France in UEFA’s Group A, pipping The Netherlands to the runners up spot on goal difference.
France;s only loss in qualification came against the Swedes with Ola Toivonen scoring a 94th minute winner after an error from Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
This is Sweden’s first World Cup since 2006 and their twelfth time overall.
Sweden’s key men
Marcus Berg (Al Ain), Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig) & Victor Lindelöf (Manchester United)
Marcus Beg seems to have filled Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s boots in the Swedish national team.
Berg scored eight goals in qualification, at least double the tally of any other Swedish player.
Emil Forsberg has risen to fame during his time at RB Leipzig.
Forsberg has become one of the Bundesliga’s biggest stars and is perhaps, Sweden’s most gifted player (and he is a real gem on FIFA by the way!).
Victor Lindelöf has been in and out of the Man United team this season due to injuries to other defenders.
The 23 year old is a versatile defender who can play in the centre of defence or on the right.
Despite his youth, Lindelöf is the key to Sweden’s defence and was essential in Sweden’s qualification where they conceded just 9 goals.
South Korea qualified for the 2018 World Cup after finishing second in their qualification group behind Iran.
The Koreans struggled in their group and dropped a large number of points away from home, notably against Syria and Uzbekistan where both games ended 0-0.
South Korea famously finished 4th in the 2002 World Cup which was a tournament filled with excitement for all Asian football fans.
Bizarrely, after Ahn Jung-hwan scored a golden-goal winner for Korea in extra time against Italy, he was banished by his club, Perugia, who were playing in Italy’s second division at the time.
South Korea have a number of Premier League players in their side, most famously, Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son.
Heung-Min Son (Tottenham), Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea) & Lee Chung-yong (Crystal Palace)
South Korea have a number of players playing in Europe’s top divisions such as Koo Ja-cheol and Ji Dong-won at Augsburg in Germany, but the Premier League boys are the key to the side.
Son is one of Tottenham’s, and potentially the Premier League’s, best players.
The 25 year old has 11 goals to his name this season for Spurs but surprisingly only scored once for South Korea in qualification.
Son scores once in every 3 matches for his country on average and will be hoping to get on the scoresheet at the World Cup.
Ki Sung-Yueng and Lee Chung-Yong are both in the midst of a seriously competitive relegation battle with their respective clubs this season.
Regardless of their club’s positions, these two play alongside on another in centre midfield for South Korea and aim to control the game before giving the ball forward to players such as Son who score the goals.
the Group F results!
Germany 2-0 Mexico
Sweden 1-1 South Korea
South Korea 2-2 Mexico
Germany 3-1 Sweden
South Korea 1-2 Germany
Mexico 1-0 Sweden
The verdict on Group F
Germany should top the group fairly easily (so long as they avoid the Champions curse) and we think that Mexico will progress from the group in second spot.
It’s going to be close but Mexico may just have a tiny bit more quality than the other two remaining sides.