South Korea 500-1
While there is no real ‘Group of Death’ at this year’s tournament, Group F is probably the closest thing with defending champions Germany going up against a strong Mexico side, a Swedish team in good form and South Korea. While Germany are one of the favourites to go on and win the whole tournament, both Sweden and Mexico would certainly be capable of a run to the quarter-final stage or thereabouts, making this a fascinating group.
Road to Russia
As usual the Germans qualified with the minimum of no fuss, winning all 10 games in a group which included Northern Ireland, conceding just four goals on the way and scoring 43. Mexico also had few problems with the high point a win away to the United States while Sweden pulled off one of the great shocks by beating Italy in the play-offs. South Korea squeezed through courtesy of a tense 0-0 draw against Uzbekistan in the final qualifying game.
World Cup Pedigree
Germany come to Russia as defending champions and are more than capable of retaining that title - a win would draw them level with record-holders Brazil on five titles each. Mexico are eternal second round losers having gone out at that stage on the last six occasions in a row. Sweden have enjoyed only intermittent success on the biggest stage of all while few will forget South Korea’s incredible run to the last four 16 years ago.
Joachim Low is now in his 12th year as Germany manager and has continued to improve his side since Jurgen Klinsmann’s Germany flattered to deceive in 2006. Juan Carlos Osorio came under pressure at Mexico following their 7-0 loss to Chile in the Copa America and a 4-1 defeat to Germany at the Confederations Cup causing some to ask questions. In Sweden, Janne Andersson has done an excellent job in bringing the squad together following the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic while Shin Tae-Yon took charge of South Korea following the sacking of Uli Stielike during qualification.
Germany’s seemingly endless production line of talent has ensured an already formidable side will be supplemented by the myriad of stars, all directed by the sublime Toni Kroos. Mexico have a group of five or six players, including Javier Hernandez, who are reaching their prime in their late 20s while Sweden have to cope without Ibrahimovic. Tottenham’s Son Heung-min will be key to South Korea’s hopes.
It will be a shock if Germany don’t top this group with the race for second place open. South Korea are well used to springing surprises at the World Cup but realistically it will be a battle between Mexico and Sweden with the two sides facing off in the final group game for what could conceivably turn out to be a second place play-off.