Germany and Sweden clash in Kazan in a World Cup match of seismic proportions.
After losing the first game in a shock defeat to Mexico, Germany will be looking to get back on track quickly.
Sweden got off to the perfect start against South Korea with a 1-0 win and know a draw here will put them in a strong position.
Quite incredibly, if Germany lose, and Mexico draw or win against South Korea, they’re out. And they’ll have the unwanted tag of being the first holders since France in 2002 to exit the tournament in the group stages.
That simply won’t do for Die Mannschaft. Joachim Low’s all-conquering squad just weren’t themselves against Mexico. At various points in that clash, they looked like they were running through four foot of bratwurst.
They lacked energy and were sluggish. At times, the Mexicans cut them to pieces on the counter-attack. It’s been a long season for a lot of this German squad. Low might need to make changes and inject some more life into his team.
Mesut Ozil carried his drab Arsenal form into that game. And it looks like he’ll pay the price with Marco Reus expected to start in his place. Ilkay Gundogan is also reported to be coming into the XI.
But what about Sweden – do they have enough to beat the Germans? It’s possible but unlikely. Janne Andersson’s side are solid-but-unspectacular.
They don’t really possess the lightning-quick counter-attacking game Mexico used to hurt Germany. They’ll probably use a low-block to frustrate Die Mannschaft and look to settle for a point.
So where can Germany hurt them? Controlling possession and using width will be paramount. And that makes it all the more galling that Low left Manchester City ace Leroy Sane behind.
He’ll have to rely on Bayern Munich full-back Joshua Kimmich to stretch the pitch and break beyond Thomas Muller on the right. Julian Draxler will also need to be disciplined and hug the touchline to give Reus room to manoeuvre behind Timo Werner.
Since the 1998 World Cup, 78% of sides who lose their first group game don’t make it to the knockout stages. Spain bucked that trend in 2010 to go on and win the tournament.
Germany have the talent and mentality to mirror that achievement. But they’ll need to pull their finger out sooner rather than later or it’s curtains.
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