Korea Gets Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden

After Panama was shoehorned into Group G, it was down to Korea and Japan to determine which side would draw the objectively easier Group H, and which side would draw the objectively more difficult Group F. This time, Korea couldn’t rely on the luck of the draw. It will up to Shin Taeyong’s men to wrestle 4 points away from Germany, Mexico and Sweden.

Here were our thoughts from the Previewing the Pots series:

Germany are of course, defending World Champions, and a very scary side indeed. Though a few personnel changes have been made here and there since their 2014 triumph, quite impossibly the Germans only seem to have gotten scarier. They won the Confederations Cup with ease while playing a reserve side, and coasted unscathed through qualifying. Joachim Low’s group boasts a winning streak going back to Euro 2016, and if there were questions at striker in 2014, Timo Werner has emerged as the favorite to lead the line in 2018. The German Machine could well become the first side since Brazil 1958-1962 to repeat as champions.

Last meeting: International Friendly (2004)
Result: South Korea 3 Germany 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (2), Jinseok (1), Michael (1), Nicole (1), Roy (2), Tim (1)

Mexico walked CONCACAF qualifying this time around, and what a flamboyant, dynamic side they can be. Though a majority of the side aren’t big European names, electing to stay in Liga MX or the MLS, they remain a threatening, fluid attacking team. With reliable, century-club veterans such as Javier Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos and Andres Guardado to rely on, the Mexicans’ dispersed club allegiances should be no barrier to a group that boasts formidable veterans and promising young talents like PSV’s Hirving Lozano. However, a masochistic tendency to just fall apart when it matters the most could haunt an El Tri side aiming to make it to the Quarter-Finals for the first time on foreign soil.

Last Meeting: International Friendly (2014)
Result: South Korea 0 Mexico 4
Writer Ranking: Jae (13), Jinseok (11), Michael (14), Nicole (13), Roy (13), Tim (10)

Sweden made a dramatic entrance to the World Cup this month, grinding out a playoff victory against Italy. It’s difficult to really make any heads or tails about Sweden; they did manage some impressive results in their group qualifiers, winning 2:1 against France (after losing to them by same scoreline earlier), and some head-scratching losses, like a 3:2 stumbler against Bulgaria. They’re a European side that doesn’t have flashy names attached to them (Remember Marcus Berg – Son’s old teammate from the Hamburg days?  Sebastian Larsson with Championship side Hull City, anyone?). But there’s still quality in their ranks, Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig) is one bright spot in particular. And to make teams think twice about facing them: Sweden’s been very stingy with hardly any goals conceded. Having qualified for the first time since 2006 (and squeaking past  Netherlands in the qualifiers no less), Sweden is looking to make the most of their chance in the finals.

Last Meeting: International Friendly (2005)
Results: South Korea 2 Sweden 2
Writer Ranking: Jae (18), Jinseok (17), Michael (18), Nicole (16), Roy (16), Tim (21)

We’ll add more later, but for now, to open discussion in the comments below:


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    • I don’t think it’s the worst group to get. Sweden might underestimate Korea and play more attacking than usual. It’s better for Korea to play an mid-level team that likes to attack like Mexico than a cautious team with a stingy defense like Costa Rica, Iran, or Iceland. I’m hoping a win and draw from the games against Sweden and Mexico. Hopefully, Korea will not concede too many goals against Germany because goal difference will be important.

      It looks like the runner up of group F will play the winner of group E. That’s most likely Brazil…

      • It’s not like we were going to win the World Cup. The goal is always just to make the Round of 16, I don’t care about who we face then. Obviously would have been nicer if it was Russia or Croatia but it is what it is, meh.

        We could always be Iran. That’s the most important thing. Though I honestly think they have a better chance of getting out of that group than we do ours.

  1. Am I the only one who isn’t feeling gloom and doom about this?
    I’ve noticed a trend when it comes to this Korean team. When their backs are against the wall, they play their best. When they are cocky, they get embarrassed.
    Think Germany and Mexico at the 2016 Olympics where Korea went beast mode. Or England at the 2012 Olympics. Hell, I’ll even add Belgium at the 2014 World Cup where we went down to 10 men and barely lost 1-0 (ok it’s a stretch, but with Belgium it could have been MUCH worse).
    Then think Algeria at the 2014 World Cup, Honduras at the 2016 Olympics, and basically the entire AFC qualification with embarrassing losses to China and Qatar.

    If I’m Shin Taeyong, I’m calling/texting all the guys right now and saying that we’re getting through the group stage. Start instilling confidence in them NOW. Meanwhile, outside the locker room I’ll be lowering everyone’s expectations and playing media games so nobody in Korea (besides the players) or our opponents or ANYONE expects us to do well. But our players gotta be the only ones who believe.

    We also have other things going for us. Seriously!
    A) Our opponents go from easiest to hardest. Sweden, then Mexico, then Germany. That’s crucial! Imagine this: We beat Sweden, defying expectations. Meanwhile Germany crushes Mexico. A huge opening loss can crush a team’s confidence. The pressure is all on Mexico. We tie or even narrowly beat them (yes, I’m telling you it is possible. Mexico is one of the biggest chokers on the big stage). We get Germany last, and I guarantee by that point they will have already qualified and will be resting players and taking it easy, looking ahead to the knockout stage.

    B) Our travel time is lower than any other team in our group. That is absolutely crucial. In a tournament like the World Cup, fitness/conditioning is so important and can’t be understated

    C) Again, expectations are SUPER low for Korea right now. Even before the world cup, everyone thought we’d get killed no matter who we played. If we were in an easy group and didn’t make it, the media/fan backlash would be awful. And I honestly think Korea would choke and wouldn’t make it. That would be awful for players like Som and Ki. If Korea does make it out of this group (and it’s possible), the players would be legendary.
    This may sound like an exaggeration but I really feel like this could be a huge launching pad for players like Kwon Changhoon, Hwang Heechan, and Kim minjae (if they make the squad.. anything can happen in the coming months).
    Defying expectations and playing a great tournament against big teams can make these guys legends in Korea and help their careers.

    One last thing… yes Japan’s group (the one we barely missed) looks super easy. But I actually think it is super tight and competitive. Poland and Colombia and Senegal won’t take any opponent for granted. All 4 teams have a chance which means the losers would be devastated (and the pressure would really be on Korea… and seriously they have choked recently in these kinds of situations). I would fear watching our defense taking on Lewandowski, Falcao, or Mane than against any Mexican or Swedish striker.

    Call me cautiously optimistic but I’m calling it: we’re getting through!!! Shin Taeyong and the players just need the right attitude.

    • Oh yeah.. I know it’s a completely different tournament but we were in a group with Germany and Mexico at the Olympics and did fine because we weren’t supposed to get through. Shin really has to recreate that mentality.

      Iran meanwhile are absolutely positively screwed.

      • I gotta say that if Korea loses to Sweden in their opening game, that alone is enough for me to say they really deserved all of the criticism they’ve received from us and the media over the past few years. And they won’t be able to use Group of Death as an excuse because Sweden is beatable (more beatable than a lot of Pot 3 teams that they would have faced in other groups) and that result is crucial- even if they don’t make it out of the group, they need that result to build off of for the future.

      • Everyone needs to stop citing the Olympics where nations have to field teams with boys 23 yrs old and under.

        It might come down to goal differential to get out of group, so be prepared to have Korea being the whipping boy. I can’t imagine even with Germany’s B-team playing the last match of group that they’ll let up on the gas in handing Korea our asses.

        Even if Korea was firing on all cylinders and played an inspired World Cup, similar to 2002 or even 2010, I doubt there’s a sliver of a chance to make it out of this group.

        • Fair point on the Olympics,
          2014 Costa Rica. That’s all I’m saying. They had a tougher group and less talented players. But they had belief. And nobody could have predicted that Keylor Navas was gonna have a breakout tournament.
          If a Korean defender or even their goalkeeper gets hot, why not us?
          Shitty teams have the ability to rise, and DEFINITELY great teams have the ability to self-destruct.


    • Your post pumped me up, Sweden and Mexico are solid teams but not unbeatable, and you’re right, pressure is on them to beat Korea and not draw or lose against us. I’m not sure if this changes our strategy to be more focused on defense and opportunistic on the counter attack rather than being over aggressive on offense.

      • Defense is the most important thing to work on. Stielike’s 4-1-4-1/4-2-3-1 really didn’t cover the centrebacks and the fullbacks enough cover (remember the Qatar game – the first one – when we just sent Jung Wooyoung back there to cover and run around pointlessly and defended with 5 men? Suicidal).

        1. Settle on a CB pairing, and do it soon. No use rotating. We need two centrebacks to practice with each other leading up to the World Cup, as we do the two fullbacks (though they seem set to be KJS + CCS).

        2. Keep the formation that shielded them. The 4-4-2 worked so well against Colombia because we kept the strain off of the backline and put more insistence in pressing and funneling opponents out wide. The 4-4-2 worked less well against Serbia because they bypassed the midfield block and engaged our centrebacks in direct aerial challenges, which they just sucked at.

        Sweden will probably take the Serbia approach. Mexico will probably take the Colombia approach. Both are probably better than the squads we saw in South Korea. Not unbeatable, but hella difficult.

    • Japan’s group absolutely was easier. They have a 2/4 chance of qualifying. With Germany in our group, we have a 1/4 chance. As simple as that. It’s a big blow.

      • Maybe, but if we’re looking at it that way, then relish the fight for 2nd!!!!!!!!!!!!
        Of course Mexico and Sweden will be hard… WC is supposed to be hard. That’s what makes it fun.
        And anything can happen. Seems absolutely impossible, but even Germany could get eliminated in the group stage. Very unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
        And in my eyes, Iran have a 0/4 chance, so it could have been an even bigger blow for us.
        No use thinking about our bad luck- that won’t help. It’s done. And no team had any control of it anyway (except maybe Russia, who happened to get the easiest pot possible… wonder how that happened? Kidding.. maybe…). On the other hand, preparation & strategy are absolutely within our control.

        Am I too positive? If so, I’ll shut up. But like you said earlier, it’s not like we were gonna win anyway. So the players may as well enjoy the experience and give it everything they got.

  2. It’s not a Group of Death – but it is a group of death for us. Sweden and Mexico are not powerhouses – but Korea is the most inconsistent and flukiest side in the group. If they get hot, they could beat either team – but they usually don’t get hot.

  3. I am usually an optimist (especially for SKNFT), but I heard about formal studies that prove lower expectations objectively lead to happier lives.

    That being said, I now hope that we can at least lose gracefully to Germany……… or any of those three teams in our group “F” :/

    Hell, just winning one match would make me very solidly content.

    I shall not expect a round of 16 qualification out of this group… or a single win… or even a draw… for my own “mental health” T___T

    It just logically makes sense:

    • Lowered expectation & SKNFT goes 0-0-3 in group stages = “Hey I can’t believe we even qualified for this ginormous world event, especially after how we sneaked through 2018 World Cup qualification. I’m just happy to be here :D”

    • Lowered expectation & SKNFT through all of the aligned stars of known & unknown celestial bodies, we some how qualify to round of 16 = “Buy Sojus by the gallons; I’m getting naturally high through SKNFT like it’s 2002”

  4. If these guys go into it with low expectations, they WILL get their asses handed to them.
    When it comes to sports, you have to want to face the toughest opposition. Because if you want to get anywhere, eventually you’re gonna face a tough opponent and you’d better be prepared for it.
    Basically what I’m saying is that if these guys were hoping to play easy teams, mentally they’ve already lost any hope at the World Cup.

    It’s OK for us fans to have low expectations. Go ahead. But Son and Ki and a few others make a shit ton of money. In 2002 we faced some pretty tough teams and nobody expected shit from us. We didn’t have any players known outside of Korea, and our players didn’t make any money (I think I read here or on Twitter someone wrote: in 2002, the Korean players had bigger balls than bank accounts). Time for our “superstars” to man up, quit making excuses, and kick some ass. These guys better go to the World Cup with a warrior mentality, I don’t care what they’ve looked like recently. It’s the only way they’ll get anything out of it.

    • I think low expectations are a good thing like how it was in 2002. Of course, Korea will need a we’ve got nothing to lose and give everything we’ve got mentality though.

    • You’re right. Just because we doubt them doesn’t mean they should. We’re the fans, they’re the players. I like the underdog role in every situation, but upsets only happen because teams believe in themselves. That belief wasn’t there in 2014 – they got crushed by Tunisia and Ghana pre-World Cup – I hope we’ll see a different story this time around.

    • To the KFA program?

      Dude, no. The KFA needs overhaul. Appointing Hong Myungbo to youth development and stuff is really cute, but it begins with getting rid of a part-time president and abolishing the silly high school system. And more. There’s a whole shopping list.

  5. When it came down to Korea and Japan at the end there, I think we all had a sneaking suspicion that Korea would end up with the more difficult group of the two remaining. At the same time, people shouldn’t sleep on those Group H opponents. Poland, Colombia, and Senegal all have the potential to be really solid.

    As far as Group F goes, we all knew that Korea would face a tough draw given its ranking, the new system for organizing pots, and that all but one of the Asian sides were in Pot 4. But, as someone else pointed out, Korea has the schedule going for them, similar to 2014. Save the top team for last when hopefully they’ve already qualified. It honestly could’ve been worse. Look at Iran’s draw. It’s a good thing that expectations are low and that the media is hyping this as the Group of Death.

    For what it’s worth, the Mexico 4-0 win over Korea in 2014 was basically a home game for Mexico (played in the Alamodome with 50,000+ fans in attendance, and Korea was missing all of its international players.

    FYI start penciling those dates into your calendars:

    Monday, June 18 versus Sweden (8 a.m. ET)
    Saturday, June 23 versus Mexico (2 p.m. ET)
    Wednesday, June 27 versus Germany (10 a.m. ET)

    • Yesss!

      THIS ISN’T even a group of death! People are overreacting because of being in a group with Germany. Guess what? TWO teams qualify. If anything, it’s a fight for second place and we have the advantage of playing Germany last. Why can’t we beat Sweden and Mexico? If we think we can’t beat them, we may as well not even show up.

      First of all, we have the opportunity that A LOT of countries don’t (I guarantee Chile, US, Netherlands, and Italy would love the chance to be in a group of death right now).

      And at the end of the day, Korea has been to EIGHT consecutive World Cups before this one.
      In the past 20 years, they have gotten to the semi-finals and the group stage twice.
      How many countries can say that?
      I think it’s pathetic if a country like Korea that has achieved so much hopes for an easy path and whines about a group of death. Personally if we were in a group with Russia, Peru, and Iceland, I would feel ZERO pride squeaking into the Round of 16 (the way Korea has been playing, they wouldn’t even do well in that group). What would that even show? Could you even brag about that? I don’t think I could even cheer for Korea, and neither would the rest of the world.
      Fans have been wondering why we suck for a long time, especially with the talent we have. Actually, I really think what we have in front of us is the only way to pull our guys out of this PUSSY slump that they’ve been in the past few years. So many of us were saying that maybe it would be a good idea for us to miss the World Cup to do some soul searching. Well, I think this is the next best thing cuz now the guys have a fucking tough test in front of them, and an amazing opportunity to do something incredible.

      If they don’t think about it that way, yes they’re gonna get fucking embarrassed.

      Not sure I’m gonna have a life until the World Cup… seriously starting to get pumped!!!!!

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