Sweden vs Mexico: 5 things to look forward to

Sweden need to beat Mexico in their final group game to have a chance of progressing in the World Cup.

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

On Wednesday, Mexico and Sweden battle out to make it through to the knock-out stages of the World Cup.

Mexico have more or less qualified for the Round of 16 in Russia. They need to either avoid defeat against Sweden or have South Korea deny Germany victory to be assured of their place in the knockout stage of the competition.

They’ll be eager to top the group, though, as a probable meeting with Brazil awaits the second-placed team in Group F depending on how Group E unfolds. 

Sweden will still be reeling after their stunning loss to Germany last week. Toni Kroos’s free kick at the death was a gut punch to Sweden and now they need to upset the dominant Mexicans to be certain of advancing in the tournament.

This is far from a dead rubber as both teams have all to play for. Here are five things to look forward to in the tie:

  1. 1 How will Mexico line up?

    REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

    Wins against Germany and South Korea have put the Central American side in control in this group. Some teams might be tempted to rest players at this point, but it may be too risky for Juan Carlos Osorio to do so.

    Should his team lose by two goals or more and Germany take three points against South Korea, Mexico will be eliminated from the World Cup despite their performances earlier in the tournament.

    Realistically, Osorio will want to conserve his players’ fitness for the next round, and not risk any potential injuries. However, if he chops and changes the starting XI, Sweden could take full advantage.

    As neutrals, it would be great to see Hirving Lozano and the other stars in Mexico’s team feature for another group game with Sweden going for broke. 

  2. 2 How will Sweden react?

    REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

    Germany’s late winner stunned Sweden. The Scandinavian side looked to have secured a point against the world champions as they reached the latter stages of the match. 

    Jerome Boateng’s red card for Germany should have spelled the end of Die Mannschaft’s tournament but the Swedes lacked the ambition necessary to kill the game off.

    Consequently, Germany conjured a late winner and now they are likely to beat Sweden to a knockout place. Such a late, significant goal in a match can take a massive psychological toll on a team. After being so close to putting themselves in the driving seat, Sweden now have to beat Mexico to have a chance at advancing. 

    They will have to show far more intent against El Tri than they did against Germany. Once Sweden scored in their second group game, they did not look to threaten Manuel Neuer despite how poor the Germans looked.

    Their mental state following the Germany match will not be great. But they are not down and out of the tournament yet.

  3. 3 Ochoa's fine form

    REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

    Four years ago, Guillermo Ochoa put in one of the best performances in Brazil. 

    The goalkeeper has had a mixed career at club level but seems to save his best for the world stage. After the 2014 World Cup, he was signed from Ajaccio to Malaga, a good step up following his tournament form.

    Since then, things have regressed for him, though. After an error-strewn time in La Liga, he is now turning out for Standard Liege in the Belgian league. Despite his mistakes in his spells at Malaga and Granada, he is a better goalkeeper than his current club suggests.

    Ochoa could well earn himself another move off the back of an impressive World Cup as he has already put in two strong showings. He kept Germany at bay after they were knocking on the door for the best part of an hour in their first match and only a Son Heung-min wonder strike prevented a second clean sheet of the tournament against South Korea.

    Sweden need to score in this game to progress so Ochoa should be called into action. If he keeps up his World Cup form, it will be tough to get past him.

  4. 4 Can Berg get his World Cup goal?

    REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

    The man to lead the line in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s absence has disappointed so far in this tournament. 

    Was it a great save or a bad miss when he had a gilt-edged opportunity against South Korea which was blocked by Jo Hyeong-woo? Either way, the Swedish striker who plays for Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates should have scored.

    Against Germany, he could have won a penalty for his team, but claims of Boateng illegally challenging him in the box were waved away by the referee. 

    For the rest of the match, Berg looked fatigued and only had one chance which was well saved by Neuer. Now it falls to the match against Mexico for Berg to prove his worth.

    He was Sweden’s key goalscorer in World Cup qualifying, bagging eight goals in the ten matches. He’s been unable to replicate his form in the build-up to the tournament, though and he will do well to score against the stubborn Mexico defence.

  5. 5 Granqvist's last Sweden match?

    REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge

    The captain of Sweden has hinted that his international career may be over after this tournament. 

    Andreas Granqvist took over the captaincy of his nation in 2016 after Ibrahimovic retired. His two years leading Sweden hit a peak when they qualified past Italy to reach this World Cup but now, they are in risk of going out with a whimper.

    His winning penalty against South Korea was the only bright spot in an otherwise dull affair, and Sweden looked poor all over the pitch against Germany in the second half. Granqvist may decide that he needs to step aside to reinvigorate the Swedish defence as he recently turned 33.

    Granqvist has been a great servant to Sweden and can hold his head high as he will reach 74 caps against Mexico. What he would give to make it 75 or above this summer.

    How do you see this match going? Let us know by commenting below.

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