World Cup 2018: Group F preview, betting odds & predictions
Current World Champions Germany begin their defence of the crown in Group F, and they are head and shoulders above the rest of their opponents on paper. In 2014, they beat Argentina 1-0 to clinch a fourth title, and won all ten games in qualification for this year’s tournament in Russia. Obviously Joachim Löw’s men are among the favourites to win it again, but they must overcome games against Mexico, Sweden and South Korea – Go straight to Group F Betting Odds.
Die Mannschaft are never too far away from being tipped for glory, and this year is no different. Joachim Löw has done well to evolve the team, with the base of it staying very much the same over the years; any changes have not really impacted their performances a great deal. Their strength in depth is amazing, so much so that the man who scored the winner in 2014, Mario Götze, is not likely to make the squad. They have plenty of goalkeepers to cover for Manuel Neuer, who continues to struggle with a foot problem, while Timo Werner is likely yo be their first choice striker.
Key Player – Leroy Sane
This may be a bit of surprise, because Leroy Sane has not yet found his feet in a Germany shirt, but the young winger has enjoyed such a great season both personally and collectively at Manchester City and he will be hoping to carry on that form heading into this summer in Russia. Pep Guardiola’s impact on his game is clear to see and has been immense, helping him to double figures for goals this season as well as the PFA Young Player of the Year award to go with his Premier League title.
Mexico may have had real trouble qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but they certainly didn’t this time around ahead of the showpiece event in Russia. They eased to the top of their Round 4 group with five wins and one draw from games with Honduras, Canada and El Salvador. Their squad of players includes some experienced names, such as Giovani Dos Santos and Andres Guardado, not to mention Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, so they will definitely be one to watch in the group stage at this World Cup.
Key Player – Hirving Lozano
Hirving Lozano created quite a stir even before he arrived in Europe, attracting a lot of attention during his three-year spell with Pachucha, where he scored 31 goals in 120 games. Big clubs were chasing him, but the man nicknamed ‘Chucky’ took the sensible option of easing his way into European football with PSV Eindhoven. The winger helped them win the Eredivisie title last season and his attention will now switch to this summer and his national team, for whom he has scored seven goals in 25 games, making his debut in 2016.
Sweden have endured a tough few years since failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but under manager Janne Andersson, who took over in 2016, things are beginning to look up. At Euro 2016, they took just one point from the group stage and were sent home early before Zlatan Ibrahimovic retired in the aftermath. Victory over Italy in a World Cup playoff last summer saw Ibrahimovic ask to return, but Andersson has kept faith with his current squad.
Key Player – Emil Forsberg
Sweden have been lacking star quality since Ibrahimovic retired, but they may have found it again in the shape of Emil Forsberg, the RB Leipzig winger. Some of Europe’s top clubs were chasing him after he burst onto the scene in helping thw German club reach the Champions League last season, and although injuries restricted his involvement in their participation in that competition and subsequently the Europa League, his ability is still unquestioned and if the Swedes are to make any sort of impact this summer, it will more than likely have Forsberg at the heart of it.
South Korea booked their place at the World Cup in Russia round three of the Asian qualification process. They are among the strongest sides in their region and showed it again as they aim to repeat the success they had at the finals in 2002, as co-hosts with Japan, when they reached the quarter finals. While home advantage was clearly helpful for them 16 years ago, it could be argued that their team is better regimented and has more star quality, with Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min set for a starring role in the group stage.
Key Player – Son Heung-Min
Until this season, Son Heung-Min was recognised as little more than a talented squad player at Tottenham, one who would fill in for the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen. But this term, by scoring over 20 goals in all competitions, including some very crucial ones, Son showed he belonged with them, on the same level. This summer is his chance to shine even brighter in his own right, because his teammates are not as good as those at his club. South Korea are a hard-working, energetic side, but it is he who sprinkles them with quality.
Germany vs Mexico, June 17, Luzhniki Stadium
Sweden vs South Korea, June 18, Nizhny Novograd Stadium
South Korea vs Mexico, June 23, Rostov Arena
Germany vs Sweden, June 23, Fisht Olympic Stadium
South Korea vs Germany, June 27, Kazan Arena
Mexico vs Sweden, June 27, Central Stadium
Germany should coast through this group with maximum points, but all of the other three teams are very tough to separate because they are all very similar; organised, functional sides but with one game-changing player. It comes down to who steps up most, and it may be a bit of a surprise, but Son could inspire his South Korea side into the knockout stages.