World Cup Group F: South Korea's World Cup on the line against high-flying Mexico
Mexico and South Korea will go head-to-head on Saturday afternoon, as both sides continue their respective World Cup campaigns after differing starts.
The South American side stunned the world when they defeated defending champions Germany, 1-0. No doubt they'll be keen to build upon that victory. The perfect way to do that would be by winning the group; that could see Mexico avoid a meeting with Brazil in the last 16, which could potentially lead to them progressing through into the last eight for the first time since they hosted the tournament in 1986.
For South Korea, it’s a matter of keeping alive any possibility that they might have of remaining in the World Cup. Defeat to Sweden in their opener has left South Korea up against it. They'll need to pick up at least a point here to remain afloat before their final group game against Germany.
These sides last met in the World Cup 20 years ago, when Mexico came from a goal down to defeat South Korea 3-1. They have met five times since then, with Mexico winning the last meeting 4-0; that friendly clash was back in 2014. However, in their last two competitive meetings, South Korea have come out on top with a 2-1 win in the 2001 Confederations Cup and a penalty shootout triumph when they guested in the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
FIFA Ranking: 57th
South Korea will come into this game knowing that it is essentially their final chance, as if they fail to pick up something in this match, they will almost certainly be out of the World Cup with a game to spare. Losing to Sweden was a big blow, as on paper, it looked like their most winnable fixture. Now they'll be required to pick up four points from two tough games against Mexico and Germany.
South Korea's coach, Shin Tae-Yong, will be forced to make at least one change with Park Joo-Ho ruled out after going off with a hamstring injury in the opening fixture. His expected replacement at left back will be Kim Min-Woo, but will the Koreans make more changes? The consensus at the moment is that Lee Seung-Woo will get a start with the likelihood being that Kim Shin-Wook will drop to the bench.
FIFA Ranking: 15th
Confidence will be high within the Mexico camp and rightfully so after a splendid win over the defending champions. Mexico were electrifying in the opener and it will be a case of same again please as all eleven players who starred against the Germans have come through the game unscathed; which should see Juan Carlos Osorio unleash the same 11 that defeated Joachim Low’s team.
On the day it was Hirving “Chucky” Lozano who netted the winning goal and it will have come as no surprise to followers of the Eredivisie, given the winger has been in scintillating form for PSV Eindhoven. This will be a different game for the South Americans, though. They'll need Chucky, alongside Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez, to be at their brilliant best. South Korea have an extremely stubborn back line and they'll be tough to break down.
This will be a different game for Mexico. Against Germany, they took on a side that likes to take possession of the ball which allowed them to counter. The South American side will likely have the lions share of the ball, while their opponents will hope to hit them on the break. However, I do fancy Mexico, thanks to their creative edge. Winning this one should put them on the verge of topping the group; potentially handing them an easier tie in the first knockout phase.