World Cup 2018: Mexico vs Sweden – Lineups, Preview & Prediction
Sweden are on the ropes after they conceded a last-minute goal against Germany, while Mexico are on the verge of qualification to the knockouts.
When Toni Kroos bent in a last-minute winner for Germany against Sweden on Saturday night, it meant that Mexico had to wait until the final day of play to confirm their place in the knockouts.
Germany can relax, as they know a victory against South Korea in their final game will be enough to send them into the knockouts, a fate that looked unlikely at times on Saturday.
Mexico still have work to do and a draw will be enough to send them through as group winners. However, a defeat against Sweden coupled with a Germany win would leave those three sides on six points with only goal difference separating them.
A 2-0 Sweden victory would knock Mexico out if Germany were to defeat South Korea. Either way, this game has a lot riding on it.
Last Time Out
Mexico 2-1 South Korea
Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez were the heroes for Mexico last time out as they scored the crucial goals that saw them defeat South Korea.
A 93rd-minute goal by Tottenham winger Son Heung Min did take a bit of shine off the victory, but the win leaves the Mexicans with complete control of their destiny in the final round of games.
This was another strong performance by Juan Carlos Osorio’s men as they were defensively strong while always dangerous on the counterattack.
Sweden 1-2 Germany
Sweden have only themselves to blame for their defeat against Germany as they sank deeper and deeper into their own half as the game wore on, despite the fact that Germany were down to ten men after a Jerome Boateng red card.
An Ola Toivonen stunning opening goal set the Swede’s on their way as they led 1-0 at half time. Marcus Berg could also count himself unlucky to not have been awarded a penalty when he was brought down in the box when one-on-one with Manuel Neuer.
Marco Reus netted the equaliser just after half time, setting up a nail-biting finish. When Boateng was sent off on 82 minutes, the game looked set to be a draw, but Sweden failed to take advantage of the extra man as they continued to allow Germany time on the ball.
Finally, the winner game deep into added time as Toni Kroos bent a stunning effort into the top corner to send the World Champions home with three points and a strong possibility of qualifying for the knockout stages.
Mexico could well go unchanged against Sweden, but LA Galaxy star Giovani dos Santos may start ahead of Miguel Layun, who has been solid yet unspectacular so far.
Carlos Salcedo also lined up in centre back last time out so it will be interesting to see if he is moved into his more traditional full back role against Sweden.
Sweden were so close to a point against Germany and their manager will probably consider keeping his side unchanged for their game against Mexico.
John Guidetti could be called up, but he has failed to impress when coming on from the bench so far in the tournament.
Key Battle: Carlos Vela (Mexico) vs Emil Forsberg (Sweden)
Which one of these players can force themselves onto the game and grab their side a much-needed victory?
Both of these teams are defensively strong, so expect a cagey affair, but the key difference will be the attacking qualities that they both possess and whether they can express themselves in the game.
Emil Forsberg has bundles of quality, but has yet to make a mark at this competition – this is the perfect time for him to do it. Carlos Vela, meanwhile, scored last time out and has generally been effective for Mexico if not a tad wasteful in front of goal.
It will be interesting to see which of these players will be celebrating at the full time whistle.
Can Mexico make it three wins?
Realistically this group looked like Germany’s for the taking. Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea are all decent sides, but none of them had the strength and depth that the Germans possess.
If Mexico can even take a point against Sweden, they will top the group, a victory will put them in an elite group of sides that have won all their group games.
The confidence they could take from that would surely give them an edge in the last 16 and possibly see them qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time since 1986 – when they hosted the tournament.
You can only imagine the disappointment in the Sweden dressing room after their last-gasp defeat to Germany. A draw would have been a fine result and nearly enough to kill off Germany in this tournament.
The Kroos goal now leaves a huge task for Sweden who needs to rely on a victory and a goal difference swing to qualify – or, of course, a Germany defeat against South Korea. Can they bounce back? It will be interesting to see the reaction from their squad.
Prediction: Mexico 1-0 Sweden
Both sides are strong defensively so it is hard to envisage a goal-fest, but Mexico seem to have enough quality in the final third to score and they should net against Sweden.
This could well be a cagey affair as neither side want to lose and no doubt they will both be keeping an eye on the Germany score against South Korea.