2018 World Cup: Group F Preview


 

The favorite to win the 2018 World Cup is Germany. Germany took home the World Cup trophy the last time the biggest sporting event in the world took place. That was in Brazil in 2014. By winning in Brazil, the Germans became the first non-South American squad to win the World Cup in a South American nation.

Now, the Germans return to their own continent in 2018 looking to repeat as champions. Can they do it? Will the chalk take their Group? Or, will some other team in Group F hand the Germans a huge upset?

Keep reading for my 2018 World Cup Group F Preview.

2018 World Cup Group F Preview

Germany                     -310

Germany was ultra-impressive during World Cup Qualifying. The Germans won every single one of their World Cup Qualifying matches. Playing in Group C, Germany beat Northern Ireland, the Czech Republic, Norway, Azerbaijan, and San Marino at home. Then, they beat all those teams on the road. They beat those squads easily as well.

Germany yielded 4 goals during World Cup Qualifying. They scored 43 goals.  The goal discrepancy is a sign that Germany is ready, again, to put a beat down on their competition on the biggest stage in the world. Germany’s top players remain the venerable Tony Kroos and the never aging Thomas Mueller. Mesut Ozil could break out in this World Cup while Joachim Lowe has managed this team since 2006.

Mexico                         +500

Mexico made it to the CONCACAF Hexagonal Round with 16 points.  That was good enough for first place in their group. During the final phase, the Mexicans started the U.S. on their path to disaster by beating the United States 2 to 1 in a game in Columbus, Ohio. Mexico went on to finish with a couple of wins, a couple of draws, and a loss. Mexico’s play was good enough for 21 points. That was good enough for first place.

Mexico’s biggest star is 23-year-old Irving Lozano. Lozano played for PSV Eindhoven this past season. He scored 17 goals in 29 games. That’s not bad at all. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio has been in charge of the Mexican National Team since 2015.

Sweden                        +600

Sweden was fantastic when finishing second in Group A. France, Netherlands, and Bulgaria were also a part of Group A. The Swedes finished ahead of the Netherlands.  That led to a playoff showdown with 4-time World Cup winner Italy. All Sweden did was beat Italy to secure their place in the 2018 World Cup.

South Korea               +2000

South Korea’s greatest strength is that they play with pace while on the pitch. The offense is terrific. It has a real star in Son Heung-Min. The Tottenham player scored 12 goals in 27 matches started. He played in 37 matches overall.

Son Heung-Min is easily the player that South Korea will lean on during the 2018 World Cup. So much so, that Shin Tae-Yong, South Korea’s manager, has discussed the best way to use Heung-Min with Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Germany is a Lock to Win Group F. Should They Be?

There’s a reason the Germans are a lock to win Group F. Consistency and depth. Consistency is what makes Germany so formidable. The Germans are led by manager Joachim Lowe. Lowe has managed the German National Team since 2006. He’s one of the very best there is at putting together set pieces. In the 2014 World Cup, Germany scored five goals off set pieces. That was more goals off set pieces than any other nation.

But, Lowe doesn’t just score goals off set pieces. He’s an amazing tactician who relies on buy-in from every player on the German squad. The fact that Germany doesn’t have a real star player on the level of Messi, Neymar, Suarez, or Ronaldo might be to Germany’s benefit. The Germans understand that to win the World Cup, you need more than a single player to dominate. That doesn’t happen anymore. The entire team must play as a perfect machine while on the pitch. Every move made by every player must be in sync with all other players.

Depth and consistency are the reasons why the Germans are such huge favorites to win Group F. However, depth and consistency alone won’t turn the Germans into Group F, much less World Cup, winners. France dominated Germany 2 to 0 in the UEFA Euro 2016 semifinals. Yielding 2 goals to the French had to have been disappointing.

Not only that, but the Germans could have some trouble if Manuel Neuer isn’t ready for the rigors of the World Cup. Neuer, one of the very best goalies in the world, hasn’t played soccer since September 2017. Everyone believes Neuer is capable of being ready for the pitch. We’ll see if he is or not.

The final thing to consider is that Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose, and Lukas Podolski have all retired from international play. Those are 3 key players to Germany’s 2014 World Cup run who won’t hit the pitch this year.

With all that being written, Germany should be favored to win Group F. There’s too much quality there.

What can Mexico do to Upset Germany in Group F?

The most important thing Mexico can do is control the flow of their games versus the other teams in Group F. Mexico’s biggest issue is in their midfield where they can have trouble keeping possession. Mexico is also somewhat weaker in the back line, in front of goal, than other teams in the 2018 World Cup.

With all that being an issue, the biggest problem Mexico will have to beat Germany in Group F is getting past Osorio’s tendency to make adjustments on the fly. Osorio doesn’t appear to work off even a loose script. That’s tough to do when facing teams like Germany whose manager, Joachim Lowe, scripts an entire match.

Lowe makes changes based on need.  Those needs are built upon a style of play. That’s different than Osorio who’s made rotation changes with no real regard for style of play. If Osorio doesn’t switch it up during the World Cup, Mexico will not only have a difficult time upsetting Germany, they could lose to both South Korea and Sweden.

Is Sweden Good Enough to Beat Mexico? How About Beating Germany?

Sweden is getting way too much support at only +600 to win Group F. The Swede’s top player is Emil Forsberg. Forsberg is a talented midfielder who scored 4 goals in 12 matches with Sweden during World Cup Qualifying. Forsberg, though, hasn’t had that great of a season with RB Liepzig in the Bundesliga. He only scored 2 goals in 21 matches played. Forsberg isn’t the only player that didn’t get a ton of love from their club teams. Per ESPN, Victor Lindelof, John Guidetti, and Ola Toivonen all played sparingly.

Sweden has team chemistry and plays with heart. During Group Stage play, those are fantastic positives. They’re such big positives that Sweden does have some hope heading into Group play.

Heart and chemistry might be good enough for the Swedes to take second place in Group F over Mexico. It won’t be good enough for the Swedes to take first place in the Group over Germany.

Does South Korea Have Any Shot of Moving to the Round of 16?

Not really. The South Koreans do play with pace, and they do have a real star in Son Hueng-Min. However, the South Koreans play terrible defense. It’s horrendous by most accounts. Their goalie, Kim Seung-Gyu isn’t a bad goalie. He’s not a world class goalie, though. That’s a problem because South Korea’s back line will have trouble dealing with both Sweden and Mexico. Germany should rout South Korea by at least 3 goals in their Group F match.

2018 World Cup Group F Predictions

Group F is tough. It’s not that tough. Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea all have flaring issues that should prevent any one of them from toppling Germany. The Germans might actually offer value at -310 to win Group F.

I debated for myself for a while when it comes to whom I believe the runner-up will be. I’ve settled on Sweden. I don’t like how the Swedish players were on the bench with their club teams. But, I do believe they’ve got the chemistry to get past Mexico, a team that has failed to live up to expectations more than once in the World Cup.

Winner:  Germany

Second Place:  Sweden