History and form favour Germany
Group F is relatively strong, featuring fourtime champion and holder Germany, Sweden, Mexico and South Korea, but history and form make Germany the obvious favourite to top the group. Die Mannschaft under coach Joachim Loew has not exited from a major international competition before the semifinals. But the curse of the World Cup winner will haunt Germany, which is hoping to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to defend the title. Sweden, which famously knocked out Italy from the World Cup in qualifying, is making an appearance at the showpiece event after 12 years, and its match against Mexico will be crucial, effectively deciding second place in the group. The Mexicans making their ninth consecutive appearance in the World Cup can still be the dark horse in the group and they have the wherewithal to be a thorn in the flesh of Germany and Sweden, while South Korea looks the weakest of the lot, and with a patchy show in the qualifiers, the team doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Ranked No.1 in the world, Germany breezed through the qualifiers, winning all 10 matches and hammering in an astonishing 43 goals scored by 21 different players, giving Loew a few selection headaches before he finalised his squad. Germany, despite the loss of several veterans, has enough depth, as shown recently in the qualifiers and in the FIFA Confederations Cup triumph in Russia last year. Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Jerome Boateng and
Mats Hummels are still around and will form the core of the team. The Germans have not lost a World Cup match to any of their group rivals since 1958 and are favourites to top the group.
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer, Marcandre ter Stegen, Kevin Trapp.
Defenders: Matthias Ginter, Jonas Hector, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Niklas Sule,
Joshua Kimmich, Marvin Plattenhardt, Antonio Rudiger.
Midfielders/forwards: Julian Brandt, Julian Draxler, Mario Gomez, Leon Goretzka,
Ilkay Gundogan, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Sebastien Rudy, Mesut Ozil,
Marco Reus, Timo Werner.
World Cup record
Champions in 1954, 1974, 1990, 2014
The Swedes have learnt to win without their best ever player Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who retired from international football two years ago. The team showed a lot of character in the qualifying campaign and shocked Italy in the playoffs. Sweden is effective without being spectacular and can ace its rivals with the highball game. But the lack of a big star and the relative inexperience of its players can hurt the side.
Goalkeepers: Robin Olsen, Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Karljohan Johnsson.
Defenders: Andreas Granqvist, Victor Lindelöf, Mikael Lustig, Ludwig Augustinsson, Pontus Jansson, Emil Krafth, Filip Helander, Martin Olsson.
Midfielders: Sebastian Larsson, Gustav Svensson, Albin Ekdal, Emil Forsberg, Viktor Claesson, Jimmy Durmaz, Marcus Rohden, Oscar Hiljemark.
Forwards: Marcus Berg, John Guidetti, Isaac Kiesethelin, Ola Toivonen.
World Cup record
Runnerup in 1958
Mexico has not been able to overcome the curse of the fifth match since 1994. The Mexicans play their own brand of pleasing, attacking football, but they have underachieved despite having a posse of talented footballers in the past. Ranked 16th, Mexico breezed through the qualifiers. Its Europebased players hold the key in Russia, but the team has never beaten Sweden or Germany in the World Cup. The young German side decimated Mexico in the Confederations Cup
semifinals last year, and the loss will weigh heavily against the North American side when the two meet in the first match of the group.
Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa, Alfredo Talavera, Jesus Corona.
Defenders: Diego Reyes, Carlos Salcedo, Hector Moreno, Miguel Layun, Jesus Gallardo, Hugo Ayala, Edson Alvarez.
Midfielders: Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado, Rafa Marquez, Jonathan dos Santos, Marco Fabian, Giovani dos Santos.
Forwards: Javier Aquino, Jesus ‘Tecatito’ Corona, Raul Jimenez, Oribe Peralta, Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Hirving Lozano.
World Cup record
Quarterfinals in 1970, 1986
South Korea will need a miracle to qualify for the knockout stage. The country scraped through the qualifiers, struggling with its leaky defence, and a lot will depend
on its Europebased players. South Korea has never won a match in the World Cup against its group rivals, and a repeat show of 2002 looks unlikely.
Goalkeepers: Kim Seunggyu, Kim Jinhyeon, Cho
Defenders: Kim Younggwon, Jang Hyunsoo, Jung Seunghyun, Yun Yongsun, Oh Bansuk, Kim Minwoo, Park Joo ho, Hong Chul, Go Yohan, Lee Yong .
Midfielders: Ki Sungyueng, Jung Wooyoung, Ju Sejong, Koo Jacheolm Lee Jaesung, Lee Seungwoo, Moon Seonmin.
Forwards: Kim Shinwook, Son Heungmin, Hwang
World Cup record 9 appearances Fourth in 2002
A young team: Germany, despite the loss of several veterans, has enough depth, as shown recently in the qualifiers and in the FIFA Confederations Cup triumph in Russia last year.
High potential: The Mexicans play their own brand of pleasing, attacking football, but they have underachieved despite having a posse of talented footballers in the past.
Low odds: South Korea scraped through the qualifiers, struggling with its leaky defence, and a lot will depend on its Europebased players.