There is no doubt that Group F will be a cracker. The Group consists of the World Champions Germany, Mexico, Sweden and South Korea. It has the making of a very special group with every team in it expecting to go through to the knockout stages. It is another one of those so called group of death scenarios were every point will be valuable. The Germans will be a tough nut to crack and there is no way they will want to relinquish their title without a huge effort. The other three teams will battle it out for that all so important second spot and this could make the games a lot tighter and more exciting.
The World Champions Germany will without a shadow of doubt not let anyone down when it comes to putting in a challenging performance in this tournament. They qualified as the only nation to do so with a 100% record, winning all of their games in the group. That group consisted of Northern Ireland, Czech Republic, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino. They go into the tournament not only as World Champions but Confederations Cup holders as well, having beaten Chile in last years final one nil. On their road to Russia they scored forty three goals and conceded only four, no matter who your opponents are that is some record. Their most decisive and clinical victory was an eight nil win away against San Marino with midfielder Serge Gnabry scoring a hat trick. The Germans will go a long way in this tournament as they always do and it is amazing how they can always get it right when it comes to the finals. Manager Joachim Lowe dropped a major bombshell when finalising his twenty three man squad by not picking Manchester City,s Leroy Sane and by doing so it sent out a clear signal that he only wanted players who are in form. Going into the tournament two players to look out for are Thomas Muller from Bayern Munich and Real Madrid,s Toni Kroos. Muller will get you a goal from anywhere and he is a product of the Bayern Munich academy and in the 2010 World Cup he won the golden boot. He was also part of the German side that won the cup in 2014, the first side from Europe to win it on South American soil. Toni Kroos was born in the former East Germany shortly before the famous wall fell and he made his name at Bayern Munich. He anchored the German midfield in Brazil 2014 and a lot of the analysts are of the opinion that without Toni in the German side they are not as effective. At club level he has won two Champions League,s with Madrid and also two FIFA World Club Cups. The Germans will be one to watch in Russia and a semi final place is a given if you look back at their history over the years in the competition.
Mexico have hosted the Finals twice in 1970 and 1986 but on both occasions failed to really produce any sort of a challenge to lift the trophy. In my opinion they are the one side that always promise so much and fail to deliver. They qualified for this years World Cup by winning the Concacaf group which included Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, USA and Trinidad and Tobago, they actually won it by five points and at no time did they look in any danger of not qualifying. Last year they reached the semi finals of the Confederations Cup and they will look to go one better this time around, although they have never gone past the quarter final stages in the finals and I can not see them doing it this time around either. Going into the tournament two players to look out for are Andres Guardado of Real Betis and Oribe Peralta of America FC, Guardado has won over 140 caps since making his debut in 2005 and has helped Mexico win the Concacaf Gold Cup twice. Peralta was part of the Olympic team that won the medal in 2012 beating Brazil in the final. His goal scoring record for Mexico is excellent when you think he has scored a goal in every other game. The Mexican squad will bring a lot of talented players to Russia but the one thing they will need to do well is have the ability to dig in and get a result, you do not always have to play sexy football to be a winner, something the Mexicans should have a long think about.
Sweden have a great record in the World Cup and have finished third on two separate occasions. They qualified for these finals by coming second in a group which included France, Netherlands, Bulgaria and Luxembourg, by finishing second they entered a play off against Italy and to a lot of people’s suprise they beat the Italians one nil over the two legs. Jakob Johansson was the Swedish hero as he was the man who scored the winning goal in the home tie. The second leg was a real backs to the wall effort in the away tie in Milan but great defending got the job done. When the qualifying group for Russia was drawn the Swedes were very much outsiders especially given the fact that their superstar Zlatan had retired from International football. Manager Jan Olof Andersson took over the international reigns in 2016 when Sweden were eliminated in the first round of the European Championships in France. He has done the job he was brought in to do and getting through to the finals through the play offs was an excellent achievement. Two players to keep an eye out for during these finals are Hull City,s Seb Larsson and Krasnodar defender Andreas Granqvist two of the players who got this Swedish team to Russia. Larsson has been a mainstay in the Swedish midfield side since 2008 and that fact tells you he never lets his country down. Granqvist is the captain of the side and his heroics in Milan during the second leg of the play offs were the foundation that saw the Swedes qualify for the finals, he is a no nonsense defender who actually plays his club football in Russia and his experience there will be a great help as he advises his team mates on what to expect over the next couple of weeks.
South Korea are another nation who were involved in hosting the tournament when they co hosted in 2002 with Japan, a tournament that was possibly the best ever run competition. In 2002 they reached the semi final and were within a hairs breath of going all the way to the final, matching that achievement has been an uphill struggle since. They qualified for Russia by coming second in the Asia Round 3 Group A which also included Iran, Syria, Uzbekistan, China and Qatar. This is the ninth time they have qualified for the World Cup and it shows us how strong their game is, there are quite a few European teams who would love that record. Manager Shin who took over from former German international Uli Stielike has also played for his country and has scored three goals in 23 appearances. Two players to look out for during this tournament are Totenham,s Son Heung-Min and Lee Dong Hook who plays for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in South Korea. Son has been successful with all the clubs he has been with and his performances for Spurs last season were excellent. Lee is his countries top goal scorer with more than 30 goals in over 100 appearances. He is also top scorer in his domestic league and has had spells with Werder Bremen and Middlesborough in Europe. Korea will need a big effort to get out of this group and their games against Mexico and Sweden are going to be the matches they have to pick up the points from.
Germany v Mexico 17/6/2018
Sweden v South Korea 18/6/2018
Mexico v South Korea 23/6/2018
Germany v Sweden 23/6/2018
Mexico v Sweden 27/6/2018
South Korea v Germany 27/6/2018