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Preview: South Korea vs. Mexico - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full match preview for Saturday's World Cup Group F showdown between South Korea and Mexico.

Mexico will be looking to follow up one of the most famous results in their history on Saturday when they face Group F rivals South Korea in Rostov-on-Don.

El Tri recorded a memorable 1-0 win over defending champions Germany in their opening fixture, leaving them top of a group which is propped up by Korea courtesy of their 1-0 defeat to Sweden.

South Korea

The South Korea team line up before their friendly game with Bosnia and Herzegovina on June 1, 2018© Reuters

Considering the level of opposition awaiting them in Group F, South Korea's defeat to Sweden in the opening match looks all the more damaging.

The Asian outfit were the latest in a growing list of teams to fall victim of VAR, but they could have no complaints at either the awarding of the penalty which led to the only goal of that game, nor the final result itself.

South Korea failed to have a single shot on target as they slumped to defeat in their opening World Cup game for the first time since 1998, and their hopes of qualifying for the last 16 now look bleak.

The level of Mexico's performance against Germany will have struck as much fear into South Korea and Sweden as it would have injected belief into El Tri, and after this game a showdown with those wounded Germans awaits.

Korea failed to win a single match at the 2014 World Cup and would have to pull off a shock if they are to avoid falling to a similar fate this time around, with their winless run now stretching back seven World Cup games, including five defeats and three in a row.

Korea have also failed to keep a clean sheet in 12 of their last 13 World Cup outings, conceding in each of the last seven which, when coupled with the attacking toothlessness they showed against Sweden, is a losing formula.

Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min is the man most likely to end what is now a three-game run without scoring for Korea, although he struggled to make his mark against Sweden as his side's recent form extended to three defeats and no wins from their last four outings.

As the lowest-ranked team in Group F it was always going to be a struggle for South Korea to progress, but now they have a mountain to climb and it may take inspiration of the level of their famous 2002 campaign for them to upset the odds now.

Recent form: L
Recent form (all competitions): LWLDLL


Germany's Joshua Kimmich in action with Mexico's Hirving Lozano on June 17, 2018© Reuters

Mexico usually start the World Cup well - with now five wins and a draw from their last six opening games - but few could have predicted such an impressive performance when Germany were revealed as their first opponents of this summer's tournament.

The defending champions were ripped apart at times by the exciting counter-attacking of Mexico, and El Tri could have had more than a one-goal lead having squandered a number of good chances during an enthralling contest.

In the end, that one-goal lead given to them by Hirving Lozano proved to be enough as they hung on amid a late barrage of German pressure, and now the belief that Mexico can break through the ceiling which has limited them at recent World Cups is greater than ever.

A different type of game will be expected against South Korea; Mexico will need to adapt to being heavy favourites rather than plucky underdogs and as such will be unlikely to enjoy so much space in which to counter.

However, Juan Carlos Osorio can also expect a much less dangerous attacking prospect at the other end of the pitch, with Korea failing to register a shot on target against Sweden whereas Germany had 26 efforts overall in their opener.

Mexico will therefore be confident of winning back-to-back World Cup games for the first time since 2002, and despite that 16-year wait their record in the group stages is impressive.

El Tri have lost only two of their last 18 World Cup group games, winning half of those, but it is beyond that stage when things get difficult, and Mexico have crashed out in the last 16 in each of their last six appearances at the tournament.

The win over Germany bears even more importance in that regard as Mexico are now in pole position to top Group F, which could see them avoid a last-16 clash with Brazil should the tournament favourites recover from their own opening-game setback.

Mexico must first ensure that they don't get too carried away with their win over Germany going into their two easier group games on paper, but if they can keep up the level of their opening performance then they could be dark horses to go far in this tournament.

Recent form: W
Recent form (all competitions): WLDWLW

Team News

Son Heung-min in action for South Korea on May 28, 2018© Reuters

South Korea could be forced into a change, with Park Joo-ho a doubt for the match having picked up an injury in the first half of the game against Sweden.

Kim Min-woo is his most likely replacement at left-back, and that could be the only change made by the group's bottom team despite their disappointing opening performance.

More will be expected of Son in particular, while former Swansea City midfielder Ki Sung-yeung will make his 104th appearance, taking him into the top 10 all-time appearance list for his country.

Mexico, meanwhile, could name an unchanged lineup due to the impressive nature of their win over Germany, with Javier Hernandez - just one goal short of 50 for his country - leading the line again.

Veteran Rafael Marquez will again be named on the bench after becoming only the third player in history to appear in five separate World Cup campaigns in the opening game.

Indeed, Marquez was the oldest outfield player to feature at the World Cup since Roger Milla in 1994 and could win his 146th cap for his country, while captain Andres Guardado is expected to make international appearance number 149.

South Korea possible starting lineup:
Cho; Lee Yong, Chan, Kim Young-gwon, Kim Min-woo; Lee Jae-sung, Ki, Koo; Hwang, Kim Shin-wook, Son

Mexico possible starting lineup:
Ochoa; Salcedo, Ayala, Moreno, Gallardo; Herrera, Guardado, Layun, Vela, Lozano, Hernandez

Head To Head

These two sides are fairly familiar with each other having met 10 times in the past, with Mexico edging the head-to-head record courtesy of five wins to Korea's four.

El Tri won the most recent meeting in 2014 convincingly too, running out 4-0 winners thanks largely to an Alan Pulido hat-trick in San Antonio.

Korea had won all three previous meetings this century prior to that, though, including a 2-1 triumph at the 2001 Confederations Cup.

The only previous World Cup contest between the two teams came in 1998, when Mexico were 3-1 winners in Lyon courtesy of a second-half comeback.

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We say: South Korea 0-2 Mexico

Mexico may not create as many chances as they did against Germany, but they could still score more goals and, against a Korean team struggling for attacking inspiration at the moment, that should be enough for all three points.

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Who will win Saturday's World Cup Group F clash between South Korea and Mexico?

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Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio on July 2, 2017
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