The 2018 World Cup kicks off in just over six months’ time, but which side will emerge from the pack to lift the famous trophy in Russia? With 32 teams slogging it out for supremacy, Marathonbet takes a closer look at each World Cup finals group in a bid to whittle down the contenders.
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
World Champions Germany are odds-on favourites to secure qualification from this group as winners, but a question mark remains over who will follow them.
The Germans are no doubt the best team in the world and their FIFA ranking mirrors that. The four-time champions are worthy favourites to make it five in Russia and with top coach Joachim Low at the helm, who lifted the trophy in 2014, they’re surely going to be in the mix. Qualification was never in doubt as they topped the group with maximum points. This is a team full of superstars including Arsenal man Mesut Ozil and Real Madrid forward Toni Kroos. Compact, organised and patient in attack, no side is yet to really figure out how to beat Germany, and that ethos goes beyond the senior team. When Julian Draxler lifted the FIFA Confederations Cup in June last year, the under-21 side had already beaten the first team to it three days earlier with an impressive win over Spain. Germany’s investment in grassroots football is paying dividends from the top down.
The senior side renew rivalries with Mexico in Russia – a team they faced in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup last year. The South Americans were beaten 4-1 and little has changed since then to suggest Mexico can turn the tables this time round. Hirving Lozano rifled a bullet header against Panama to secure qualification with three games to spare in September and, alongside talisman Javier Hernandez, they’ll likely need to beat Sweden to achieve the group’s second qualification spot.
With the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden were expected to go through a period of rebuilding. Instead they finished second in their qualifying group, eliminating the Netherlands who finished in third place. Then in the play-offs, they beat Italy 1-0 on aggregate, a hard fought 0-0 draw at the San Siro following a 1-0 home victory. This was the first time the Italians had not qualified for the final stages since 1958! Without Zlatan, it was Marcus Berg leading the scoring with 8 goals in qualification. Sweden open their tournament against South Korea, a team they last met in home and away friendlies in 2005, both games ending in draws.
South Korea themselves are no strangers to the World Cup finals, appearing in the last 8 tournaments. However, they have only progressed beyond the group stage twice, their best finish being 4th in 2002 when the tournament was co-hosted in Japan and Korea. On that occasion a Michael Ballack goal saw Germany victorious 1-0 in the semi-final. They qualified for these finals by finishing second in their group, though they made hard work of this, failing to win any of their five away games, including losses in China and Qatar. If they are to reach the knock-out stages then Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min will need to be at his goal-scoring best.
Group F top stat:
Germany threw away a 4-0 lead at a 2014 World Cup qualifier in Berlin against Sweden that ultimately finished 4-4. A year later in Stockholm, Germany came from 2 down to beat the Swedes 5-3.
Marathonbet odds for winning the group: Germany (7/20) – Sweden (8/1) – Mexico (11/2) – South Korea (13/1). Check the full Group F betting markets here.
When and where can I watch Group F games? And what TV channels are they on?
June 17: Germany v Mexico (4pm, Moscow, BBC)
June 18: Sweden v South Korea (1pm, Nizhny Novgorod, ITV)
June 23: South Korea v Mexico (4pm, Rostov-on-Don, ITV)
June 23: Germany v Sweden (7pm, Sochi, ITV)
June 27: South Korea v Germany (3pm, Kazan, BBC)
June 27: Mexico v Sweden (3pm, Ekaterinburg, BBC)