2018 FIFA WORLD CUP – Sweden vs South Korea PREVIEW
Crucial game for both nations because after this it doesn’t get any easier for either nation with Mexico and Germany in the group. Both teams know they have to win this game otherwise their hopes to advance will be given a massive dent. Sweden are a well balanced side who have had great success since Ibrahimovic’s retirement, meanwhile South Korea are more of a one man team like Sweden used to be with Ibra, but Korea have Son Heung Him who they’ll look at to help them have a successful campaign. Let me get into further detail with the preview below.
It seemed like life would get tough for Sweden after their greatest ever player Ibrahimovic retired, but they seem to have become a better unit over the two year period and have had some great success knocking off some top sides on their way to the tournament. Sweden have a really well organised side, their biggest strength is their defence because it’s near impossible to break them down, even the big boys have had struggles breaking them down. Sweden’s main defender is Andreas Granqvist, an absolute rock in the defence and is full of experience playing major tournaments before. Sweden have a solid balance around the team in general, going forward they have some threatening players too, their main man in midfield is their best player Emil Forsberg who is going to run things in midfield and try to set up the strikers to score goals. A very good player who plays on a high level in Bundesliga will be expected to deliver for Sweden. Sweden’s replacement for Ibrahimovic has been a very clinical striker in Marcus Berg who scored 8 goals in 11 qualifying games, he is just coming off a season scoring 25 goals in 21 games in the league in UAE, which isn’t the most impressive league, but the goalscoring record is impressive regardless, plus he dominated the Greek league in years prior which is an ok league and his international goal ratio which I just mentioned 8 in 11 is very impressive leading up to the world cup. Sweden definitely do have game changers, their attack is still slightly suspect but as I mentioned they’re not completely hopeless, however their defence and team unity as they are now more than just a one man team will definitely be the biggest key for them to succeed because that’s how they’ve got here in the first place.
Sweden have had one of the toughest roads to the world cup, and when I say tough I mean REALLY TOUGH. Sweden were drawn in the same group with two giants France and Netherlands, but they also had to face a decent Bulgaria side, also no pushover Belarus and Luxembourg. Sweden picked up some very impressive results including beating France 2-1. Their biggest win was 8-0 against Luxembourg which was actually very huge because Sweden finished in 2nd place above Netherlands on goal difference. Sweden improving their goal difference by 8 goals against Luxembourg gave them a lot of cushion going into the last game against Netherlands because Sweden would have to lose by 7 goals the last day to miss out on the 2nd place and they only lost 2-0 enabling them to finish 2nd. Sweden then had to play Italy in the playoffs. Another European giant. Sweden won the first leg 1-0 and then went back to Italy with the lead. Sweden amazingly put in one of the best defensive performances in their history keeping Italy at bay and not letting them score. Sweden held off Italy and drew 0-0 meaning they knocked Italy out 1-0 on aggregate to reach the world cup. It was absolutely incredible what Sweden done basically knocking off Netherlands and Italy by themselves when many people expected them to struggled post Ibra retirement, but they became more of a team and pulled off a near impossible thing.
Sweden played a couple of friendlies this month against two good sides in Peru and Denmark. Both games ended in a bore 0-0 draw which isn’t something Sweden should be excited about, but at the same time they did continue to stay solid at the back keeping two clean sheets. That does show however that their attack is a little bit lackluster and needs to step up. I have no worries about Sweden at the back because they’ve very well organised. Coming into this world cup Sweden will have to find goal scoring form because they cant just go for three 0-0 draws especially when they meet the Germans. They have to get off to a winning start. I think we’ll see some boring games by Sweden because they’re not a good goal scoring side, but a very good defensive side.
Yet another world cup for the South Koreans. A nation who never really built on to their incredible success in 2002, but have been a regular at the world cup since. South Korea are the biggest underdogs in this group, however they do have players who give them hope and the main man that comes to mind is Son Heung Min who is really one of the more underrated player in Europe. Son is coming off a season where he scored 12 goals and had 6 assists for Tottenham in the premier league, being their 2nd highest scorer and helping them to 3rd place. A creative player who can also score goals and is by far the best South Korean player. Whenever South Korea need someone to provide a bit of magic their man Son is going to be the one they’ll look forward to and the expectations will be high for him. South Korea have also got a couple impressive youngsters in their team who may get their chance to shine. Overall as a team South Korea do have a lack of talent and could be overcome by anyone, which is why they’ll have to work very hard to get results and their star man will have to be on form. South Korea also have an inexperienced manager in Shin Tae-Yong for who this world cup is going to be the first major tournament and it will be ringing alarm bells because having an inexperienced manager with a side who isn’t very talented could go very wrong for the South Korean side because when they struggle, they need that experience on the touchline and they may lack it during the tournament, furthermore South Korean defence is a question mark because they do tend to concede a little too many goals against better nations as I’ve researched their recent results they have conceded more than 1 goal quite a few times recently in friendlies against nations like Poland, Bosnia, Senegal so they will need to sort it out at the back coming into the tournament.
South Korea’s road to the world cup was quite straight forward I guess. In the first group stage round they faced Lebanon, Kuwait, Myanman and Laos. Neither of those teams put Koreans in any danger as Korea won all 8 games topping the group by 13 points and advanced to the final stage where they had their fair share of struggled. South Korea finished 2nd and qualified automatically but their record was quite poor only 4W 3D 3L. South Korea just about held off Syria and Uzbekistan who are definitely not very good footballing nations and its concerning because Korea weren’t very convincing in the campaign, they even had a poor goal difference in 11:10 meaning they’d concede a goal per game and just about score one per game. Attacking struggles mixed with defensive struggled against nations below the level of their world cup opposition is clearly concerning and the only reason they’re here is really because the Asian continent isn’t very strong.
Korea played 4 friendlies just before the world cup. They won their first one over Honduras 2-0, but then they lost 1-3 to Bosnia, drew 0-0 with Bolivia and lost 0-2 to Senegal. Once again nothing convincing, a good win against Honduras but other than that they were leaky at the back against stronger sides in Bosnia and Senegal and they couldn’t even beat a poor Bolivian side. Just looking at South Korea over the whole qualifying campaign and the friendlies, it really makes you worry if you’re a South Korea fan because they really didn’t look good and can they rely on Son to carry them? I don’t think so because defences will just mark him out of the game, especially if nobody else shows up.
What to Expect From The Game
It’s not the best thing to say as a football fan, but we believe we’ll see a relatively boring game. Sweden will most likely have a strong defensive shape and will be very hard to be broken down by South Korea who lack attacking talent other than Son. Sweden will most likely just mark Son out of the game as they have dealt with tougher tasks before like Italy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sweden decided to start the game on the back foot even as the favourites because they don’t have many creative players to break up a defensive side, so they may just sulk up the pressure and try to get Korean players to come forward so they can hit them on the counter and exploit the spaces. South Korea do have a below average defence and it could get exposed by Sweden. Sweden having a better defence could really be the difference here because coming forward they’re about even sides. For Korea it’s going to be important to not go down first because if Sweden score first I don’t see a way back for Korea, however if Korea can score first themselves, the game might open up for them which basically means the 1st goal could really decide the winner here. There is a lot to play for both sides and I don’t think either team will risk bringing bodies forward, we’ll see lots of passing in the middle of the park and teams waiting for other to make a defensive mistake. I trust Sweden’s defence more than Koreas to hold on and Sweden should be able to get a narrow 1-0 win, if not then we may get a 0-0 draw here.
ODDS – Decimal (WilliamHill)
Sweden Win – 2.00
Draw – 3.20
South Korea – 3.90
KICK OFF – 18th June 2018 – 1pm UK Time