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World Cup Group F: Neither Sweden nor South Korea intend to be polite in debut

Monday 18th June 2018

Both Sweden and South Korea will be keen to start their World Cup campaigns strongly when they meet at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium this afternoon. 

Although the two nations aren't expected to make a deep run in Russia, each side is capable of progressing to the knockout round. 

On paper, Group F is one of the most competitive. Germany was firm favourites to finish top. However, Mexico's 1-0 victory over Die Mannschaft has left things wide open. Sweden and South Korea must now take full advantage. 

It will not be the first time these two nations have met, although they have never played a competitive game. Their last encounters were 13 years ago when two friendlies ended score draws.    


FIFA Ranking: 24th

Sweden defied expectations to ensure a place in Russia. Placed in a qualification group with France and the Netherlands, few expected them to make it. 

The Swedes qualified in fine fashion. Finishing second only to France, they bested each team in the group at least once. A 2-1 victory over Les Bleus last September proved the highlight.  

Unfortunately for Blagult, though, they begin the World Cup having gone without a win in four games. That run includes draws against Peru and Denmark as well as a defeat to Romania.    

Key to recent success was the formidable defensive unit which Janne Andersson assembled. It will be heavily relied on again this summer.   

Sweden conceded just nine goals in 12 qualifying games, including the defeat of Italy in the playoffs. They will be intent on keeping up such an impressive record, particularly against defending champions Germany in their second match. 

Not that the Swedes play all-out defence. In fact, the opposite is true. They finished as group top scorers in qualifying, scoring 26 goals in 10 matches.    

Without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andersson's men have become more of a team. Striker Marcus Berg has filled the Ibra hole, netting eight times during qualification.

Emil Forsberg is arguably Sweden's most talented player. The winger will prove a huge threat to South Korea. 

South Korea

FIFA Ranking: 57th

Compared to Sweden, South Korea struggled in qualification. After flying through the second round by finishing atop Group G by 13 points, the next phase was somewhat of a disaster.

Although The Taeguk Warriors finished second in the standings, they trailed seven points behind an extremely defensive Iran side. Notable poor performances include a 1-0 defeat to China, 3-2 loss to Qatar and 0-0 draw with Uzbekistan. 

South Korea's form heading into the World Cup has not been up to standard either. They managed just one win in their last five matches, overcoming Honduras 2-0. Defeats to Senegal, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Poland don't bode well   

In truth, manager Shin Tae-yong oversees a middling team. Conceding a goal per game on average during qualification, while scoring only 11 times in 10 matches, alludes to that fact. 

This current side, though, is considered a golden generation. They boast several Premier League players, all with sufficient quality to perform on the biggest stage.   

Chief among them is Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min. The forward struck 18 goals in all competitions this season, 12 of which came in an impressive league campaign for both him and his team.

Ki Sung-Yueng and Lee Chung-Yong are two more well-known names in England's top flight, having played for Swansea City and Crystal Palace respectively this campaign. 


Considering all aspects, it's difficult not to envisage Sweden recording a comfortable victory.   

Blagult are the superior side in every area. Their defence is strong enough to contain Son Heung-min. South Korea, meanwhile, struggle to keep clean sheets, even against lesser opposition.    

Sweden's attackers, particularly Forsberg and Berg, will relish the opportunity to rack up the goals in their opening encounter. 

Sean Lunt

Football journalist working in the North West mainly covering Everton and Liverpool but with musings on anything football related. 

Total articles: 110

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