Updated: June 15, 2018 1:50:48 pm
Defending champions Germany simply cruised through their qualifiers and are the only UEFA team this year to have won every single match in their qualifiers. The fact that Joachin Low left out Sandro Wagner, who was top scorer for them in the qualifiers, and Manchester City’s Leroy Sane, shows the kind of depth they have. Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Joshua Kimmich form a formidable back-three with Manuel Neuer in goal. Germany’s riches in the midfield are almost obscene. Mesut Ozil, Leon Goretzka, Sami Khedira, Julian Draxler, Ilkay Gundogan will all be fighting for starting spots. In the attacking department, Marco Reus and Timo Werner showed how dangerous they can be together while Thomas Muller is also available. Mario Gomez can also be used in case Germany need to throw the kitchen sink. Low has used a 4-2-3-1 in most of the qualifying games. Germany and Brazil are two of the biggest contenders for the final, in case they don’t meet each other earlier in the tournament that is.
South Korea were unbeaten in their initial phase of AFC qualifying but finished second to Iran in the final round. Tottenham Hotspur’s Heung Min Son emerged as the top scorer. South Korea generally play a 4-4-2 formation and apart from Son, the likes of Sung-yeung Ki, Seung-Woo Lee and Chung-Yong Lee are all players who play in Europe. They are formidable going forward but, as was evident in the qualifiers, their problems lie in defence. Their defence doesn’t create a threat or danger for the opposition which could be an obstance in progressing forward.
‘Unpredictable’ is the word that has often been used to describe Mexico in the lead up to this World Cup. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio does not seem to be interested in making his team stick to one formation but it has worked wonders for El Tri. Mexico lost just one match in their entire qualification campaign, scoring a whopping 29 goals in the process. Javier Hernandez and the much heralded Hirving Lozano are the chief goalscorers and Mexico are genuine contenders to make it a long way into the tournament.
Sweden lost Zlatan Ibrahimovic to retirement after Euro 2016 but that seemed to have not stopped them in qualifying for big tournaments. They first managed to finish second to France in their group, edging out Netherlands in the process. They then pulled off the mother of all upsets by beating Italy in their two-legged qualifier and destroying a pitch-side television studio set. Leipzig’s Emile Emil Forsberg remains the only recognisable world-class creator in the forward line while Sebastian Larsen is a danger with his ability from dead-ball situations. And it seems that Sweden’s anonymity is something of a strength for them.
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