With the 2018 World Cup in Russia kicking off in less than a month, SoccerNews.com is commencing its own series of group predictions where you will be able to find previews of all the teams taking part in this summer’s showpiece tournament, latest team news and best betting odds and suggestions.
We’ve finally arrived at the group containing the reigning & defending world champions – Germany. They’re once again considered to be a team of importance at this tournament, which will hardly come as a surprise to anyone. They’ll be joined in Group F by three nations who you could argue are ‘veterans’ of the World Cup, as Mexico, Sweden & South Korea all make their 16th, 12th and 10th appearances in the finals respectively.
While it may not be a group which immediately jumps off the page as can’t miss, there’s certainly room for some excitement in there somewhere. We aren’t necessarily suggesting that there will be too many surprises, but at the same time, all four of these teams can be incredibly competitive when they’re on form.
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) May 15, 2018
When you think of the German national football team, you think of winners – and it really is that simple. They’re efficient, they’re entertaining, and most importantly, they know how to get the job done. As four-time World Cup winners, they’re clearly one of the best teams in the entire competition, and they’ll have their eyes set firmly on equalling Brazil’s record following their 7-1 demolition of the hosts in their semi-final four years ago.
Their qualification for the tournament was as dominant as anyone could’ve anticipated as they managed to win all 10 of their group games, scoring 43 goals and only conceding four. The next best team in the group, Northern Ireland, actually managed to pick up 19 points which is a pretty impressive total, and yet they were still 11 points off of Germany who just ran away with it. You may not like them as a unit, but you have to respect what they produce on the pitch.
It’s impossible to look at this squad and think anything other than ‘World Cup contenders’. The reigning world champions are coming into the tournament with yet another five-star collection of players, which you could argue is only rivalled by the French. There’s no guarantee that they’re going to go all the way, and we’ve seen great teams falter in the past, but when the likes of Gotze, Can & Schurrle don’t make the cut then you know that something is wrong.
— Collins Kevs 🇰🇪 (@CollinsKevs) May 17, 2018
The Mexicans are always seen as a nation who can easily qualify in second position from their group, but are never able to go much further than that. Their best performances at the World Cup came in 1970 and 1986 when they finished as quarter-finalists, but it’ll be their 2014 showing which they’ll be dying to improve upon. They managed to reach the knockout stages and were leading The Netherlands 1-0 in the Round of 16, only to wind up losing 2-1 despite being ahead until the 88th minute.
In terms of their qualification for the World Cup, it was much less stressful than it has been in past years for them. They only lost one of their ten games in CONCACAF qualifying en-route to winning the group, scoring 16 goals and only conceding 7 in the process. The quality of the opposition around them wasn’t exactly great, but it’s still impressive given how low the expectations have been for them at the last few tournaments.
Mexico probably possesses the second strongest squad in Group F, and when you analyse the team itself, there are some playmakers in there who could lead them into the knockout stages. The main story is the presence of Rafael Marquez who continues to be a prevalent member of the squad, whereas the likes of dos Santos, Molina, Hernandez, Lozano and more will all be aiming to prove that this team can finally make some noise amongst the big boys of the competition.
OFFICIAL: Sweden’s 23-man squad for the 2018 World Cup. 🇸🇪 pic.twitter.com/P2E7Ommdb4
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) May 15, 2018
While the Swedes have ‘been there and done that’ when it comes to playing in the World Cup, their appearance in Russia will mark the first time that they’ve graced football’s biggest stage since 2006. They’ve been through something of an adjustment period over the last decade which has seen them miss out on many big opportunities, although it should be noted in the history books that they did manage to finish as runners-up in 1958 when they hosted the tournament.
Qualifying for Russia 2018 was about as stressful as you could imagine for them, as they were forced to go down the route of the playoffs. Out of the eight qualified teams they only had the fifth best record which meant that they were likely going to have their backs against the wall, although, against all of the odds, they managed to defeat Italy over two legs to ensure that they’d be returning to the World Cup for the first time in 12 years. They may not get very far, but they’ll always have the memories of Milan.
This isn’t the strongest of squads for Sweden in comparison to their appearances in other tournaments, which is a shame, because they often tend to put in some nice performances on the big stage. The most notable absentee is a man who hasn’t really done anything on an international scale for years now, and that is, of course, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Many fans are upset to see that he hasn’t been given another chance at competing in the World Cup, and we can’t say that we blame them.
South Korea’s preliminary World Cup squad 🇰🇷⚽👀 pic.twitter.com/zZC04fODUq
— Juan Direction (@JuanDirection58) May 14, 2018
South Korea have been regular fixtures in the World Cup in recent times, having seemingly mastered the art of qualifying for the tournament. Their recent outings saw them struggle to get beyond the group stages, but let us not forget what they were able to produce back in 2002. They defied the expectations of everyone, including their own fans, by reaching the semi-finals of the competition before eventually being knocked out by Germany who lost in the final to Brazil.
This time around they aren’t expected to make much noise, but we’ve been foolish enough to write them off before, so we won’t do so again. They struggled to get a foothold in qualifying as Iran ran away with things at the top of the table, meaning that South Korea were left to scratch and claw with the likes of Syria and Uzbekistan before eventually confirming their place in Russia. They seem to thrive on being the underdogs, and they’ll be desperate to improve on their one-point performance in Brazil.
While it’s unlikely, there’s going to be an extra incentive for some South Korean stars in the squad who will be aiming to win the World Cup in exchange for not having to serve mandatory military duty. One such player is Son Heung-min, and when you scan through their list of players, it’s clear to see that he’s the man everyone will be keeping an eye on. They’re plucky and they’re determined, and they’ll need to summon the spirit of 2002 in order to stand a chance here.
As you’d expect in a group like this, Germany are the overwhelming favourites to win it at 1/3 and they’re a massive 1/12 just to qualify for the knockout stages. It’s a close call between Mexico (11/10) and Sweden (5/4) regarding which nation is expected to join them, whereas South Korea are 5/2 underdogs at the bottom of the pile.
Surprisingly enough, though, the Germans aren’t the favourites to win the entire competition as they’re only priced at 9/2 which leaves them just behind Brazil at the top of the pile. The bookies are a little bit less optimistic regarding the chances of the group’s two other likely knockout qualifiers, with Mexico being priced at 100/1, meanwhile, Sweden are 150/1.
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