World Cup Group F: Germany no longer a sleeping giant for cornered South Korea
Group F remains very tightly poised with the real possibility that three teams could be level on six-points after match-day three.
Germany had an extremely lucky escape against Sweden, thanks to a late wonder strike from Toni Kroos, as they won 2-1 with virtually the final kick. Having already lost to Mexico, a draw would have seen them all-but mathematically out.
Now if they win their last game, they should have done enough to qualify. The only way they Germany could miss out, is if Sweden beat Mexico by a single goal; leaving the three teams tied at the top.
Kroos' late goal also kept South Korea in the World Cup. They now have a slim chance despite losing both of their first two games. They would have to beat the current world champions and hope Mexico beat Sweden. That would then leave them as one of three sides on three points, so goal difference would again come in to play.
The two sides have met three times, twice in World Cup’s, which Germany won on both occasions; in 1994 and 2002.
Their most famous meeting was in the semi-final in 2002. Korea’s fairy-tale run in their own country was ended by a late Michael Ballack goal to send Germany to the final.
South Korea have been regular World Cup finals participants with this being their 10th appearance. However, since their greatest run in 2002, they have only won twice in eleven finals matches.
Germany’s record in World Cups is second only to Brazil. They have won the title four times in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014 - only one behind the South American’s. However, the reigning champions have made the most appearances in the final itself, having been runners-up on four occasions.
The game will take place at the Kazan Arena which has already hosted three games during the tournament, including Columbia’s 3-0 thrashing of Poland on Sunday night.
FIFA Ranking: 57th
Korea have used two completely different formations in their games, starting 4-3-3 against Sweden and a more stable 4-4-2 versus Mexico. In both fixtures, they have had their moments but have largely looked second best.
However, they have suffered a huge blow with captain Ki Sung-Yueng missing out after picking up a calf injury in the loss at the weekend.
By a long way, their standout star is Tottenham’s Son Heung Min who has a fantastic season in the Premier League. In his two matches, the winger has looked by far the most likely player to create something for his country. Son’s strike against Mexico shows that he can provide that individual brilliance that South Korea do need, but some help would be greatly appreciated by the Spurs man.
FIFA Ranking: 1st
Kroos gave the reigning champions a get out of jail free card at the weekend. They were very poor against a strong Mexican side, and for the majority of the game against Sweden, Germany didn’t fare much better. Never mind the late winner, having finished with ten men and being 1-0 down at one stage, you could argue they would have been lucky to grab a draw.
However, that little bit of extra class showed. Now, they are in control of their own destiny.
In both games youngster Timo Werner has led the line, but without much success. Will Germany stick with him?
Mesut Ozil was dropped after the first game and didn’t come on as a substitute against Sweden, but Joachim Low has stated this does not mean he won’t be in contention for Wednesday.
Mats Hummels has recovered from a neck injury and is fit to play, but midfielder Sebastian Rudy is doubtful after minor surgery following breaking his nose against Sweden.
At the back, they will be without Jerome Boateng who is suspended following his red card.
The last-minute winner should prove the kick up the backside that Germany needs to get the defence of their title back on track. Despite both sides putting in quite poor performances so far, the Germans showed when they needed it most, they have that extra bit of quality. I now expect them to put in a much-improved performance and seal their spot in the last sixteen. Germany 3-0.