World Cup 2018: Germany vs Sweden – Lineups, Preview & Prediction
Germany are desperately looking for a win after they lost on day one, while Sweden can almost qualify for the knockouts with a victory.
19:00 BST, Saturday 23 June, Fisht Olympic Stadium (Sochi, Russia), ITV
The World Champions are currently staring an early exit in the face if they fail to get anything from their game with Sweden, though realistically only a win will do.
In fact, Joachim Low’s men will probably be out with a draw as Mexico should beat South Korea and then Sweden would face that Mexico side who could rest players in their final game, having already qualified with six points.
Realistically only a win will save Germany’s hopes of making it into the last-16.
For Sweden, their win against South Korea was huge. They may have been unimpressive and reliant on a penalty, but at the end of the day, results are what matter. This huge clash could be tournament-defining for both sides and the pressure is well and truly on.
Last Time Out
Germany 0-1 Mexico
Disjointed and lacking organisation, Germany were not very German against Mexico when they faltered to a 1-0 defeat that easily could have been three or four.
Not one Germany player, other than maybe Manuel Neuer, covered themselves in glory and they were deserved losers.
Hirving Lozano scored the important goal in the first half, but really Mexico should have been comfortably ahead at halftime.
Their counter-attacking was splendid and their front four tore Germany’s defence apart time after time. The only issue letting them down and preventing more goals was their final ball.
That being said, Germany dominated possession with 67% and had twice as many shots as Mexico, but it was the quality that they lacked and Mexico made their time on the ball count.
Sweden 1-0 South Korea
Andreas Granqvist scored the important penalty for Sweden as they squeezed past South Korea thanks to a VAR decision.
The penalty was initially not awarded, but moments later the referee stopped the game – as South Korea rushed to the other end of the pitch – reviewed the play and correctly awarded the spot kick.
That bit of fortune was probably deserved for Sweden as they dominated the game and restricted South Korea to zero shots on target.
After his side’s poor opening game, Low is expected to ring the changes to ensure Die Mannschaft get their first points of the tournament.
The issue against Mexico was in midfield, so Sami Khedira is expected to drop out for Ilkay Gundogan, with Marco Reus also coming in for Mesut Ozil, who was anonymous. After missing out through illness, Jonas Hector is also expected to start at left back.
Why change a winning formula? Janne Andersson may be tempted to tinker with his side, but realistically it would be harsh to drop any of his players who picked up a victory in game one.
If there are to be changes, expect them to come in central midfield as both Sebastian Larsson and Albin Ekdal came off against South Korea. Ola Toivonen could also come out the side as he struggled to impact the game.
Key Battle: Manuel Neuer (Germany) vs Marcus Berg (Sweden)
Germany will have a lot of the ball against Sweden and will look to dominate the game. They need to be far more fluid in their attacks than they were against Mexico and they need to improve their finishing.
But, with a dominant display, you often find that the opposition has counter-attacking opportunities, which is why the Marcus Berg vs Manuel Neuer battle is interesting.
At some stage in the game, Sweden will get their opportunity to counter and a lot rests on how Berg manages the situation, with these chances decisive in the overall outcome of the game.
Against Mexico, Germany were wide open defensively. They will tighten up against Sweden, but they will still concede chances if the likes of Joshua Kimmich and Jonas Hector continue to push forwards, leaving just Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels at the back.
KEY STAT: Berg won two aerial duels and took three shots – only one of which found the target.
Berg is the key man for Sweden and if he is ruthless, then they may come away with a vital victory. If Neuer comes out on top, then Germany will at least get a draw.
Germany’s midfield issue
Whilst much has been made of Germany’s defensive shortcomings against Mexico, the problem stemmed from their midfield.
Yes, the fullbacks pushed up and left Boateng and Hummels exposed on numerous occasions in three vs two situations, but had Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira not been so weak, these situations would not have happened.
By the duo completing only one of their nine combined tackles – none of which were in the centre of the pitch – a porous midfield meant Boateng and Hummels had to advance to make risky tackles in areas of the pitch they should not have had to defend.
If the rumours of Ilkay Gundogan’s entry into the starting XI are true, this is unlikely to solve the issue.
Gundogan is not a pure defensive midfielder, which is what Germany need to compensate for their advancing fullbacks. Sebastian Rudy, for example, would be far better as a defensive option to sit between the two centre backs and protect against the counter.
Following the Mexican blueprint
Yes, they defeated South Korea and they deserve credit for it, but in all honesty, Sweden were not that great against a side they are seemingly better than on paper.
They dominated the statistics – partially because South Korea were even worse – but they never really looked like scoring and had to rely on a silly challenge to earn them a penalty and the important goal.
If they play similarly against Germany, then they will lose comfortably, so the key for them is making sure that they up their levels, particularly in the attacking third, and continually cross into the box to put Boateng and Hummels under pressure.
It’s important, too, that they follow Mexico’s example and take advantage of the right flank and Kimmich’s attacking exploits. Who better to do so than RB Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg?
Prediction: Germany 1-0 Sweden
It will be tight and it will not be pretty, but Germany should just about edge this game provided they can keep their composure and improve on their defensive organisation.
Sweden will frustrate them and look for counter attacks, but the quality in this Germany side should be enough to see them through. Do not be surprised though if Sweden can keep their ninth clean sheet in ten games.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss all the action from Day 5 of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.