World Cup Group F: Germany must end Sweden's joy to find way back
Group F started off with a surprise, as Germany lost their opening game to Mexico, 1-0. Sweden defeated South Korea with the same scoreline, leaving the fixtures for round two looking rather mouthwatering. The European pair meet at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi later today, with the 44,000 seater stadium gearing up for what should be an incredible atmosphere.
There has been a rich history between these two nations, meeting each other on no fewer than 36 occasions. The most recent being an eight-goal thriller. During 2013 World Cup qualifying, Germany defeated the Swedes 5-3. Andre Schurrle bagged a hat-trick that day. Since 1958, Germany have not lost to Sweden in World Cup competition.
Sweden's 1-0 win over South Korea saw many chances go begging. Janne Andersson's men attempted 15 shots, forcing the Korean keeper, Cho-Hyun Woo, into several saves. The deadlock was eventually broken after an incident in South Korea's penalty area, following a VAR review from the referee. Captain Andreas Granqvist stepped up and scored his seventh international goal. Sweden took their place at Group F's summit.
Nobody expected Mexico to pull off the spectacular, but a 35th-minute strike courtesy of Hirving Lozano led to an unlikely Germany loss. In what was an entertaining game with chances aplenty, the defending World Cup champions peppered 26 shots on Guillermo Ochoa's goal. Nine of those efforts were on target. As the old saying goes, though, you've got to take your opportunities when they come your way; particularly on the grandest stage of them all. Nobody is doubting Germany's quality, they just have to be more clinical.
FIFA Ranking: 1st
Despite losing their opening game, Germany will most likely stick with their 4-2-3-1 formation. The real question is who gets dropped and who will replace them? Surely Low will be thinking about altering his squad for the Sweden debacle? Although not in a good position, the camp remains confident they can still progress beyond the group stage. Currently ranked as the world's best team, Germany have a lot of expectation within this competition.
There are no injury worries to report from Die Mannschaft, but even if there were, the European giants still have the depth and quality. If they can rediscover their goal-scoring touch, Low's boys should be absolutely fine.
FIFA Ranking: 24th
Sweden will be ecstatic about their opening victory over South Korea, despite requiring a penalty to scoop all three points. Andersson will most likely use the exact formation in their first game; a 4-4-2 will be set up with Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen likely to feature as the front two. Captain Granqvist netted his first World Cup goal against Korea but against Germany, he will be extra busy in his defensive duties this time out.
Coming up against the Germans will prove a stern test for Sweden. It's unlikely they'll get as much time on the ball to create chances and they'll probably start in a more defence-orientated system. However, Mexico already did it so why can't Sweden go for the jugular? Just like Germany, they have no injury worries and should be raring to go come kick-off time.
I believe this fixture will be tightly contested. Low's side will be dominant in possession but being able to score is another task entirely. We know Germany have quality and we haven't seen the final product just yet. Sweden won, but carving out clear-cut opportunities proved to be a chore. Unless they get the referees help once again, they may struggle. I believe DFB-Elf will go on to win 2-0, with their key player being Thomas Muller.