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: