World Cup holders Germany will face Sweden at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on Saturday in Group F’s second round of games.
Die Mannschaft slipped to a surprising 1-0 defeat against Mexico in their World Cup opener, and another defeat against the Scandinavians on Saturday would see the holders eliminated from the competition.
El Tricolor took a deserved lead in the 35th minute, when Hirving Lozano escaped the challenge of Mesut Özil to rifle past a helpless Manuel Neuer. Germany could, and should have conceded more, but Joachim Low’s side were spared further embarrassment by Mexico’s wasteful finishing and poor decision-making in the final third.
Sweden, on the other hand, got their World Cup campaign off to the perfect start with a 1-0 victory against South Korea. The Blågult looked far from convincing but Andreas Granqvist’s 65th minute penalty was enough to secure them all three points.
However, having yet to play the two best teams in Group F – Germany and Mexico – their progress is far from guaranteed, and a loss on Saturday would be a huge setback to Janne Andersson’s side.
The two sides have met on 22 different occasions and Germany boast the better record with ten wins compared to Sweden’s eight.
One of the most memorable encounters between the two nations dates back to 2012, when they were both vying for World Cup qualification.
Die Mannschaft welcomed Sweden to the Olympiastadion in Berlin with a 100% record in Group C, which also included Ireland and the Faroe Islands. The hosts looked to be cruising to a comfortable and thumping victory thanks to a double from Miroslav Klose and one goal apiece from Per Mertesacker and Mesut Özil – 4-0 up within 55 minutes.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 62nd minute header grabbed the Swedes a supposed consolation goal before Mikael Lustig halved the deficit only moments later with another header. The Germans didn’t appear to be too worried, despite having conceded twice in the space of five minutes.
However, minor doubt turned to panic in the 76th minute, when Johan Elmander grabbed another with a near-post finish. The home side looked to be holding on to their 100% record until Rasmus Elm amazingly smashed in a 93rd minute equaliser.
Nevertheless, Germany, unlike Sweden, did end up qualifying for Brazil 2014, and we all know what happened at the Maracanã – step forward Mario Götze.
Reigning champions Germany are actually in pretty average form, having won just one of their last six matches. Defeat to Austria, followed by a scrappy win over Saudi Arabia was hardly the preparation Joachim Löw was looking for, and their struggles have carried over into the tournament.
Defeat to Mexico has exacerbated their problems, with Low’s side needing to get quickly get themselves out of the rut they currently find themselves in.
Sweden will take heart from their opponents misfortunes, and will no doubt come into this clash with an elevated level of belief. They have only won once in their last six clashes however, with their opening group game win over South Korea only decided via the penalty spot.
The Swedes will be encouraged by their defensive performance though, and will hope the Germans lack of cohesion carries over into this crucial clash.
With no injuries nor suspensions, Joachim Löw has his whole 23-man squad to pick from, and it’s likely he will make some changes following his side’s drab display against Mexico.
Mesut Ozil could be one of the casualties after he once again failed to impress. Instead, Dortmund’s Marco Reus could be handed a start in behind Timo Werner. Sami Khedira could be replaced by Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, while full back Marvin Plattenhardt could be dropped in place of Jonas Hector.
Despite having recorded a clean sheet in their opener against South Korea, Victor Lindelof has recovered from illness and is likely to be handed a place in Sweden’s starting lineup at the expense of Leeds’ Pontus Jansson.
Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Hector, Boateng, Hummels, Kimmich; Kroos, Gundogan; Draxler, Reus, Muller; Werner
Sweden (4-4-2): Olsen; Lustig, Lindelof, Granqvist, Augustinsson; Claesson, Larsson, Ekdal, Forsberg; Berg, Toivonen
Germany were undoubtedly poor in their World Cup opener against Mexico. Saturday’s game will be a completely different affair, however.
Sweden are a defensively solid outfit, but they don’t boast the same attacking talents as Mexico. The Blågult’s goal against South Korea, which was scored from the penalty spot, was their first in 402 minutes of international football – they’re far from proficient in the final third and Germany won’t be as susceptible to the counter as they were against Mexico.
That should be a massive boost to Die Mannschaft and especially the full backs, who play a key part in Low’s attacking philosophy.
It won’t be easy, but the defending champions should get the job done.
Prediction: Germany 2-0 Sweden