Reigning champions Germany are favourites in Group F, can anyone challenge them? Read this 2018 World Cup Group F preview for all the expert analysis you need ahead of the tournament.
World Cup Group F prediction: What do the odds say?
World Cup Group F Prediction
Elo World Ranking: 2
Previous best performance: Winners (1954, 1974, 1990,2014)
Top scorer in qualifying: Thomas Müller, Sandro Wagner (5 goals)
Key player: Toni Kroos
Odds to advance from group: 1.093*
Odds to win World Cup: 5.440*
The reigning Champions enter this World Cup arguably stronger than the side that won in 2014.
Losing the exceptional Phillip Lahm would weaken any team but the emergence of Joshua Kimmich at Bayern Munich has softened that blow significantly.
Likewise, Miroslav Klose’s vacated striker position is likely to be filled by RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner, who brings pace and clever movement to the team.
Most of the spine of the successful 2014 squad remains. Hummels and Boateng form a dependable centre-back pairing whilst Sami Khedira’s industry complements the artistry of Toni Kroos in midfield.
The mercurial Mesut Ozil can cut a frustrated figure at club level but is an integral part of the national side. He has the ability to exploit Werner’s incisive forward runs in the final third. The Germans are also likely to field Leroy Sane on the left-wing who adds width and trickery to their attacking play.
Manuel Neuer has missed much of this season through injury, but when you have a backup of the quality of Andre Ter Stegen there is no need to be overly concerned about the goalkeeping position.
If there is a weakness in this German side it will likely come from the left-back role. The current incumbent is Jonas Hector who is a fine player but a level below his teammates. Opponents may see the battle down the German’s left-hand side as one they can win and may be correct if they can isolate a star winger one-on-one with the Koln fullback.
With that being said, this group does not have any teams with the ability to exploit any weaknesses in the German line-up. Germany will be expected to dominate possession and ease themselves into the tournament without too many issues.
The Germans will want to win this group to avoid a potential encounter with Brazil in the Round of 16. They will be keen to avoid slip-ups throughout their group stage fixtures. Given the gap in quality between Germany and the rest of the group backing them to win over 6.5 points at 1.568* could be a sensible bet.
Elo World Ranking: 17
Previous best performance: Quarter-finals (1970, 1986)
Top scorer in qualifying: Hirving Lozano
Key player: Hirving Lozano
Odds to advance from group: 2.030*
Odds to win World Cup: 121.000*
Mexico enter this tournament aiming to overcome “the curse of the fifth game” after being eliminated at the round of 16 at every World Cup since 1994.
Manager Miguel Herrera has defined a successful tournament as one in which Mexico reach at least the quarter-finals but he is perhaps overestimating the ability of his side. With Brazil highly likely to top Group E the Mexicans will probably either have to finish ahead of the World Champions in this group or defeat the Brazilians in the second round to reach that far.
It is also by no means a given that Mexico qualify from this group. They certainly have more individual quality than both South Korea and Sweden but those teams tend to play above the sum of their parts.
The first choice Mexico front three will threaten any team. Chicharito is likely to lead the line and, whilst his all-round game leaves something to be desired, he is a threat inside the penalty area. Hirving Lozano should put himself in the shop window if he brings his club form to the World stage. The winger, who goes by the nickname “Chucky”, has scored 16 goals in his debut Eredivisie season.
A reinvigorated Carlos Vela joins the two in attack whilst Porto’s Hector Herrera and Real Betis’ Andres Guadardo bring energy to the midfield.
Mexico open their campaign against Germany and are unlikely to pick up points there. The final game against Sweden could be where qualification is won and lost. They should pick up points against both South Korea and Sweden and have an outside shot at upsetting Germany if the World Champions begin their title challenge slowly.
A draw and a win in this group is well within the reach of Mexico so bettors should consider odds of 1.657* on them to score over 3.5 points.
Elo World Ranking: 13
Previous best performance: Runners-up (1958)
Top scorer in qualifying: Marcus Berg (8 goals)
Key player: Emil Forsberg
Odds to advance from group: 2.310*
Odds to win World Cup: 162.150*
Sweden performed above the expectations of many in qualification, finishing ahead of the Netherlands before emerging victorious over two legs against World Cup royalty Italy.
On paper it looks as though the Swedes coped superbly with the retirement of record scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but a look below the surface shows they are perhaps fortunate to be at the tournament.
The Swedes were outshot 1.41 to 0.25 on expected goals in the second leg against Italy and scored their tie winning goal via a deflection from their only shot on target over the two matches. They did not create a clear-cut chance over the two legs, highlighting their offensive limitations.
Too much of the attacking burden is placed on the shoulders of Emil Forsberg. If, as is likely, Forserg is heavily marked then the Swedes resort to launching long balls towards their hardworking but ultimately limited forwards. They concede possession far too easily to consistently build attacks.
Sweden are defensively sound with a well-drilled backline protected by two defensive midfielders. At some point in the tournament, however, the Swedes will need to open up in pursuit of a goal and that will play into the hands of their opponents.
The Swedes currently look to be competing with South Korea for the position of Group F’s worst team heading into the tournament. The Koreans, however, have a few attacking players that can make a difference whilst Sweden only really have Forsberg who has the quality to change games.
They will be dangerous from set plays with the delivery of Forsberg and Seb Larsson but will need to manoeuvre the ball into the final third to win dead ball opportunities first.
Of course all of this could be changed if Zlatan returns. He has the quality to create a lead for the Swedes to hold on to and is an incredible outlet for long balls. Should he come out of retirement the Swedes would have a real chance of qualification, but currently it is hard to see them performing particularly well.
Without Ibrahimovic bettors will be interested in Sweden not to advance from the group at 1.625*. Should the Swedish legend declare himself available to play those odds may move.
Elo World Ranking: 13
Previous best performance: Fourth place (2002)
Top scorer in qualifying: Ki Sung-Yueng, Koo Ja-Cheol (2 goals)
Key player: Son Heung-Min
Odds to advance from group: 4.359*
Odds to win World Cup: 464.300*
Despite qualifying for Russia the Koreans suffered a disappointing qualification campaign which led to the sacking of head coach Uli Stielike. He was replaced by former U-20 and U-23 coach Shin Tae-Yong who led them to two goalless draws, ensuring qualification for their ninth straight World Cup.
Results have been mixed under Shin so far. The Koreans produced strong performances in the November friendlies, defeating Colombia and taking a credible draw against Serbia. In the March round though they were defeated by a limited Northern Ireland side and Poland.
South Korea have a reputation for organised defensive structure and high work rate and this time they have some additional quality to add to that mix. Heung-Min Son provides pace and incision to a youthful attack. Red Bull Salzburg forward Hee-Chan Hwang is enjoying a great run in the Europa League whilst attacking midfielder Kwon Chang-Hoon has made an effortless transition to life in Ligue 1.
The Koreans favour a 5-4-1 formation with a stacked defence that covers for the lack of individual quality in their backline. The experienced Ki Sung-Yong will be joined by another deep midfield player to shield the three centre-halves. They rely on the dynamism of Son and Kwon to progress the ball rapidly down the pitch and create opportunities.
This game plan could actually be more successful against better sides as the Koreans will find space to counter-attack. If they can isolate Son one-on-one with defenders then he will create dangerous situations with ease.
Should the Koreans take the lead then the opposition will need to balance pushing for an equaliser with preventing Son from isolating their defenders. Sweden, in particular, would struggle with this if Korea can score the first goal.
Whilst this Korean team did not qualify impressively they have more quality in attack than they have done in recent tournaments. If they can remain solid at the back then they will certainly fancy themselves to take points from Sweden or Mexico. As a result, odds of 2.000* on The Korea Republic to win over 2.5 points could be favourable to bettors.