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World Cup: Everything you need to know about Group F

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Germany:

Joachim Low’s powerhouse dominated this exact tournament four years ago and they are primed to do the same this time around. Ranked as the number one team in the world according to FIFA, Germany has the second best odds, behind Brazil, to win the competition at 5/1. Aside from four retirements from aging players, the squad has mostly stayed intact.

The top returning players include goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, defenders Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, midfielders Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil, and forward Thomas Muller. This German core has the experience, professionalism, and skill to win back to back World Cups. The cherry on top for Die Mannschaft is the abundance of youthful talent supplanting the aging retirees.

Timo Werner, Joshua Kimmich, and Leon Goretzka all played vital roles in the 2017 Confederations Cup and are expected to be integrated into Low’s side for this tournament as well. One notable omission from the squad has been promising winger Leroy Sane, who is fresh off winning the Premier League title and PFA Young Player of the Year for Manchester City. The 22-year-old has apparently fallen out of favour for Low and Sane’s attitude has been questioned by some since.

Germany has eyes to become the first team since Brazil in 1958 and 1962 to win back-to-back World Cup trophies. It seems as though they are on a collision course towards the title.

Mexico:

El Tri arrive in Russia weeks after a scandal was reported involving at least eight members of the team partying for 24 hours with escorts. The Mexican Football Federation announced that it would not suspend any players for the incident; giving the reason that it was their ‘free day’.

This scandal may distract Mexico from their toughest match, an opening World Cup match against Germany that will test them from the start. In the lead up to the World Cup, El Tri has not looked like a team ready to break their streak of six straight Round of 16 exits. They only scored one goal spread across three exhibition games against Wales, Scotland, and Denmark; drawing one and losing the other two.

All eyes will be on Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, their all-time leading goal scorer who will be participating in his third World Cup. Head coach Juan Carlos Osorio will be managing his first World Cup team and is under much scrutiny from the media and fans to finally move past the Round of 16. Mexico’s roster is as talented as it has even been, but their mental strength will be key in deciding if they can, once and for all, win a game in the Knockout Stages.

Sweden:

In the months leading up to the World Cup, there was much speculation that Zlatan Ibrahimovic might make an appearance in Russia. The Swedish superstar previously retired from international football back in 2016, but had hinted after their qualification that he might participate in Sweden’s World Cup campaign.

However, after his move to LA Galaxy, he decided to keep his word and not participate in the tournament. Without Zlatan, Sweden will take on more of a defensive identity that they showed during qualification. They were able to defeat Italy 1-0 at home and draw 0-0 in Italy to earn a spot in the Group Stages, and you can expect more of this in their opening games.

Emil Forsberg, the RB Leipzig midfielder, will provide the bulk of the attacking duties while Manchester United centre-back Victor Lindelof will look to shore up the defence. Even though this is the first time Sweden has reached the World Cup in 12 years, they will not be just happy to be here. In 2002 and 2006, they reached the knockout stage, in 1950 and 1994 they achieved third place, and in 1958 they were finalists.

Sweden currently ranks as the 24th best team in the world and will be fighting with Mexico and South Korea for that second group stage spot. They insist that a more balanced attack without Zlatan is a better approach. Only time will tell if they are right.

South Korea:

The Koreans may be the lowest ranked team of the group, but their history shows that they are nothing to scoff at. The Koreans have been a mainstay at the World Cup, having appeared every four years since 1986.

In 2002, when they co-hosted the tournament with Japan, they reached the semi-finals by defeating the likes of Portugal, Italy, and Spain. In doing so, South Korea became the first Asian team to ever reach the final four. In 2018, they will be led by their superstar Son Heung-Min and captain Ki Sung-yueng.

Son has achieved great success over in England at Tottenham. He has scored double-digit goals in back-to-back seasons for Spurs and has endeared himself to the fan base in short time. Ki has been a mainstay for Swansea City for the past six seasons and has provided reliable midfield play in the process.

Outside of these two players, no one else jumps off the page. Most of the others play in lower level Asian leagues and haven’t been exposed to great competition yet. South Korea is an underdog to advance past the group stage, but the star quality of Son Heung-Min may provide the magic it needs to advance.

All images provided by Wikimedia Commons

 

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