Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the World Cup
group-stage clash between Sweden
and South Korea
at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. These two sides have been given added incentive to get off to a positive start today following Group F favourites Germany's shock 1-0 loss
to Mexico on Sunday afternoon, leaving things wide open.
Mexico's impressive victory a little under 24 hours ago was not necessarily a good result for Sweden and South Korea, though, as they are in direct competition with El Tri for second place - or at least that was the plan! What it does mean is that, barring another huge upset in Germany's remaining two matches, any loser in Nizhny Novgorod this afternoon can surely pack their bags and prepare to head home after just one game.
SWEDEN TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Olsen; Lustig, Granqvist, Jansson, Augustinsson; Larsson, Ekdal, Forsberg, Claesson; Berg, Toivonen
SUBS: Johnsson, Nordfeldt, Lindelof, Olsson, Helander, Krafth, Svensson, Hiljemark, Rohden, Durmaz, Guidetti, Thelin
Starting with a look at the starting lineup named by Janne Andersson
, the 55-year-old - partaking in his first major international tournament - has decided to stick with the forward duo of Ola Toivonen and Marcus Berg. Sweden have had some serious goalscoring problems in their most recent warm-up matches, but it would be silly of Andersson to chop and change at this point and he has kept faith in his favoured duo.
There is a lack of star quality in the Sweden ranks following Zlatan Ibrahimovic's retirement after Euro 2016, but that is not to say that there are not any gems in the squad. Emil Forsberg has enjoyed another stellar campaign at club level with RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga and, if certain reports are to be believed, he is a big-money target for a couple of Premier League sides. A positive showing in Russia will only enhance his reputation.
Andersson has gone with what is effectively a 4-4-2 formation, spearheaded by Berg who has been prolific at club level over the past year, albeit in the less-competitive Abu Dhabi top flight. Pontus Jansson and Andreas Granqvist
are the preferred duo at centre-back today, while Seb Larsson - now boasting more than century of senior international caps - is still around and starts in central midfield.
SOUTH KOREA TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Kim; Lee, Park, G Kim, Jang Hyun-Soo; W Kim, Koo Ja-Cheol, Lee, Ki, Kim Min-Woo; Son, Hwang Hee-Chan
SUBS: S.G Kim, Jin-H Kim, S-H Jung, Ban-Suk Oh, Young-Sun Yun, Min-woo Kim, Chul Hong, Yo-Han Go, Se-Jong Ju, W-YJung, S.M Moon, Seung-Woo Lee
Turning attention to the Korea lineup, manager Shin Tae-yong
has gone with what is likely to be a 4-3-3 formation. The new man in charge is determined to get the best out of undisputed star man Son Yeung-min, and will therefore deploy to the Tottenham Hotspur man in an advanced role with the licence to roam around a little. This Korean side is also geared to hit opponents on the counter.
Kim Shin-wook is the man tasked with leading the line, and he heads into the World Cup
on the back of a campaign that saw him net 10 goals in 35 appearances for Jeonbuk FC in the K-League. Hwang Hee-Chan is the other advanced player and, much like Son, he boasts some European pedigree having netted in the Champions League and Europa League for club side Red Bull Salzburg.
Keep an eye out for Lee Jae-sung, too - he operates in wide areas of the field and will look to create chances for Kim through the middle. If Son is the star man in this side, then Ki Sung-yeung is also one of the more familiar faces as he has plenty of Premier League experience under his belt, and he will be using these finals as a shop window to showcase himself as he plans to leave Swansea City this summer.
South Korea do not boast too many recognisable faces - as manager Shin Tae-yong joked about pre-match, and star man Son Heung-min has not been able to replicate his Tottenham Hotspur form on the international stage. Sweden, likewise, are devoid of major talents following Zlatan Ibrahimovic's retirement, yet in Emil Forsberg they have a player who can make things happen in the final third.
Sweden head into their opening Group F match as favourites, as they are ranked 24th in the world - 33 places above their Asian opponents. The Blue-Yellow are competing in the World Cup finals for a 12th time, but this squad does not exactly have too much experience as this is their first participation since 2006 in Germany. As you may remember from qualifying, though, they certainly know how to hold their own against big-name opposition.
Andersson's men finished above Netherlands in their qualifying group and then had the daunting task of a two-legged playoff against Italy. The Azzurri were the team to avoid in the shootout, but Sweden scored the only goal of the tie and hour into the first leg through Jakob Johansson, superbly holding on in the second leg at San Siro to book their place in Russia. Make no mistake about it - the European nation have earned their spot in this competition.
Sweden, who lost three of their 10 qualifying matches in a group that contained France and Netherlands, recorded their best finish at a World Cup finals in 1958 when they hosted the tournament. The Blue-Yellow finished runners-up to Brazil that year, but it is fair to say that their target this time around has been set a tad lower. Progressing out of a competitive group is an achievable aim; anything less, in fact, would be considered a disappointment.
Germany may have lost their opening match but you would fancy the reigning champions to win their two remaining games. Mexico are very much in the driving seat right now after Sunday's shock result, though, and there is pressure on Andersson's charges to pick up all three points from this opening fixture in Nizhny Novgorod. Following this match, the Blue-Yellow face Germany and then Mexico in nine days' time.
The hope for Sweden is that their showdown with Mexico next week is a straight shootout for a last-16 spot. If that is to be the case then they quite simply have to win today, but on the basis of their warm-up matches even that will be a tough task. From four pre-tournament friendlies, the Blue-Yellow lost 2-1 to Chile and 1-0 to Romania, while also playing out goalless draws against Peru and Denmark.
Three goals in their last seven matches, and none in their most recent three outings, goes a long way to showing why that forward partnership has been questioned. Andersson knows full well that his creative players need to click into gear today, as anything less than victory against South Korea will leave them in a pretty bleak position. Nothing will be decided over the next couple of hours, of course, but Mexico will be jumping for joy if this one ends all square.
DID YOU KNOW? Sweden have not won their opening game at a World Cup since 1958 when coming out on top 3-0 against, of all sides, Mexico. Since then the European nation have lost two and draw five. South Korea won their opening match against Greece in 2010, meanwhile, but that is their only victory of any sort at the World Cup finals in nine attempts.
In terms of their most recent finals experience, there is no great expectation from this Sweden side. They have progressed into the second round just once since that final appearance in 1958 - that coming at USA 94 when finishing third - although they are unbeaten in their last nine group-stage outings since 1990. That, combined with the favourable group they have been placed in, means that this could go either way.
This Sweden side have become a well-drilled outfit under Janne Andersson
, who replaced Erik Hamren after Euro 2016 and is now tasked with guiding his nation into the latter stages of the World Cup in his first taste of a major international tournament. Andersson is well known for being a good tactician, but the big question is whether or not he can get some goals out of his side in Russia.
Sweden head into their Group F opener against South Korea as favourites, as they sit 33 places above their opponents in the latest FIFA rankings. The Blue-Yellow finished above the Netherlands in their qualifying group and then edged past Italy 1-0 in the playoffs, but their warm-up results have been pretty underwhelming and they have just three goals to their name in seven matches overall.
South Korea have plenty of World Cup experience, having qualified for this quadrennial tournament nine times in a row and 10 times overall. Ever-presents since 1986, the Taeguk Warriors are the most regular participants of any Asian nation, but so very little is expected of them in Russia this time around. Just 2,000 fans have made the journey East, compared to 30,000 backing Sweden.
Qualifying was a painful process for Korea, as they collected just 15 points from 10 matches to scrape through ahead of Syria, Uzbekistan and China. This is a pretty poor group of players collectively, and they cannot be described as a settled group either because manager Shin Tae-yong
was only appointed in November following a poor run of results. If the picture being painted seems bleak, that is because it is.
Shin Tae-yong started off with a couple of goalless draws in qualifying, with the final-game stalemate against Uzbekistan confirming South Korea's place in Russia. The Taeguk Warriors had a dismal record away from home in qualifying, collecting two points from five matches and scoring in just one of those games - a 3-2 loss at the hands of Qatar. Relying on counter-attacks seems a good ploy in their three group matches, and they should not be completely written off.
South Korea reached the last 16 in 2010 but those 2,000 or so fans making the journey to Russia are not expecting quite so much this time around, particularly after seeing their side win just one of their six pre-tournament friendlies. Defeats to New Zealand, Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Senegal were far from ideal preparation for this ninth-successive finals appearance, having also played out a stalemate with Bolivia.
In short, the Koreans concede too many and do not score enough - not the best of combinations when you are in a group with World Cup heavyweights Germany, perennial knockout stage participants Mexico and a well-drilled Sweden side. More recently than their last-16 appearance in South Africa, the Asian side crashed out at the group stage four years ago and were pelted with sweets on their arrival back home.
Interestingly, five of South Korea's last eight goals at the World Cup finals have come from outside the box, while 12 of their last 13 have come in the second half. Just one clean sheet has been kept in their last 12 outings overall, meanwhile, compared to three in 24 for Sweden - also a pretty dismal return, albeit against higher-calibre opposition. That said, the Blue-Yellow kept out the opposition seven times in 12 of their qualifiers.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! Sweden are unbeaten in four previous encounters with South Korea, winning two and drawing two, but this is their first ever clash in the World Cup. The European side's joint-biggest victory came against today's opponents, as they ran out 12-0 winners in the most one-sided of Olympic Games matches 70 years ago. A tighter match can be expected today!
With kickoff at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium now less than five minutes away, let us check out some pre-match thoughts from both camps.
Janne Andersson: "We are looking forward to this match against a tough opponent. We know they have technical skills, are a very fast team and we need to keep good order in everything we do. We are very happy with our performance so far in preparation. We have been working more on our attacking game over the last few days."
Shin Tae-yong: "We do not know each other that well, but we are really ready for the game tomorrow and we have to win. Some people are saying the [Korean] fans are showing us the cold shoulder but we are doing everything we can to win. The fans in Korea are sending us their support."
Korea boss Shin Tae-yong concedes that he and his players "not now know each other that well", having only been appointed a little over six months ago. Sweden have no such problems, but their recent results have been just as underwhelming as their opponents' and they need to hope that their attacking players finally click back into gear this afternoon. Both teams are now out on the field ready for the anthems...
KICKOFF! We are up and running at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. Sweden, seeking a first opening-game win at the World Cup finals since 1958 when they were the host nation, are looking to make a fast start against South Korea here.
Not a great deal is expected of perennial qualifiers South Korea this time around, but they will be happy enough with the start they have made to this contest. An early corner is won, which Robin Olsen is able to punch away at full stretch.
A good delivery into the box from Son is met by the head of central striker Kim, who was unable to guide it goalwards under some pressure eight yards out. The Taeguk Warriors appear to have gone with a 4-2-3-1 formation, rather than 4-3-3.
Sweden have not really got going as of yet in Novgorod, where the temperature is currently 26 degrees Celsius. A reminder that the Blue-Yellow are without first-choice centre-back Victor Lindelof today due to an illness bug.
Janne Andersson's men are now in control of the match, but they have not really been able to get their advanced players on the ball. Recent history suggests that this is a game that will end all square - hopefully a goal will be scored, though!
YELLOW CARD! Kim Shin-wook has just been show the first yellow card of the contest for his mistimed challenge. A bit of danger as Sweden get a couple of balls into the box, but Cho Hyun-woo collected the second delivery.
Not an awful lot between the two sides at this early stage in the contest. Following Mexico's win against Germany yesterday, a draw would not be an ideal result for either team. Plenty of time for one or the other to find a breakthrough.
Sweden are tightening their hold on the match as they continue to patiently probe away. Korea centre-back Kim Young-gwon has just produced a sublime last-ditch tackle to prevent Andreas Granqvist getting a shot away from close range.
That Kim tackle to deny Granqvist - what was he doing that far up the pitch, incidentally?! - is pretty much the highlight of the contest so far. No attempts on target so far, on target or otherwise, in a game that has not truly taken off.
SAVE! Cho Hyun-woo stands firm to deny Marcus Berg. The Swedish striker should have been doing better, but credit to Cho for getting down low and blocking the close-range shot from Berg, and then quickly getting back to his feet.
CLOSE! Pontus Jansson gets his head to the corner but fails to direct the ball on Olsen's target from 12 yards. Sweden starting to create some good chances now with a quarter of this Group F game played.
South Korea have lost their way a little following a fairly composed start to the match. If not for Cho's fine save from that Berg shot a few minutes ago, they would be a goal behind at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
One big chance in the match so far, then, falling the way of Marcus Berg who really should have been doing better up against Cho Hyun-woo. Korea have a problem now, as Park Joo-ho appears to have pulled a muscle when leaping to get the ball.
SOUTH KOREA SUB! The Korea physios instantly signalled for a stretcher, so Cho's afternoon has come to an end. Kim Min-woo will shift into the back four and instantly has a corner kick to defend, with Sweden the side in control.
BLOCK! Yet another impressive block at the back from Korea - Kim Young-gwon again getting between Marcus Berg's close-range shot and the back of the net. The Taeguk Warriors putting their bodies on the line in a defensive sense.
A third of the match played and Sweden will feel that they are worthy of a goal. South Korea have offered little in an attacking sense, but at the back they have stood firm and repelled everything their opponents have thrown at them.
Korea, as mentioned before the match, do like to counter when they get the chance. Their latest burst forward, led by Son Heung-min, comes to an end in the Swedish box with the yellow shirts completely outnumbering those in white tops.
As things stand, with these two sides on course for a point apiece, Germany will end the day sitting bottom of Group F - who saw that coming?! Andersson will be confident of breaking down the Korea wall, though, with 55 minutes left to play.
A mixture of impressive Kim Young-gwon defending and a close-range save from Hyun-woo means that we remain all square in Novgorod. Plenty of Sweden fans in attendance here - as many as 30,000, apparently - and they are urging their side on.
Half time is fast approaching now and the momentum has just slipped away from Sweden's attacking play. The Blue-Yellow have had a couple of chances to move in front, but they failed to make the most of those openings are the first half is edging towards a goalless conclusion.
Toivonen wants a penalty after going down in the box but not enough contact was made. A minute beforehand, Berg was in behind but his cross - or quite possibly a miscued shot - went right across the face of goal. Sweden knocking on the door now.
SAVE! Andreas Granqvist had a shot blocked early in the match and his latest effort, a side-footed attempt from further back, has just been hit straight at Cho Hyun-woo. Korea just holding out for the half-time whistle now.
Two minutes have been added on at the end of the first half. Korea have been unable to create anything so far, never mind getting a shot away, while Sweden's best openings have either come to an end through good defending or goalkeeping.
HALF TIME: SWEDEN 0-0 SOUTH KOREA
Mikael Lustig with a good delivery into the box at the end of the first half, with Viktor Claesson getting his head to the ball but seeing it deflect behind for a corner. Sweden were the better side in the opening 45 minutes but could not find a way through.
Sweden were in control of the match in the opening 45 minutes and created a couple of good openings, neither of which they were able to take. Kim Young-gwon produced two impressive blocks inside the area to deny Marcus Berg and Andreas Granqvist, the latter of whom also shot straight at Cho Hyun-woo towards the end of the first half.
Cho also stood firm to keep out Berg's effort from close range in the best chance of a first half that never truly got going, as Sweden's inability to convert - three goals in seven games prior to this one - threatened to haunt them. Pontus Jansson, in for illness bug victim Victor Lindelof, also guided a header over the crossbar, as did Viktor Claesson in a frustrating first half for the Blue-Yellow.
South Korea need to offer a little more if they are to snatch all three points from their Group F opener, so will Shin Tae-yong be tempted to turn to his bench in the second half? The Taeguk Warriors have already replaced full-back Park Joo-ho with Kim Min-woo in the first half due to a hamstring injury.
SWEDEN SUBS: Johnsson, Nordfeldt, Lindelof, Olsson, Helander, Krafth, Svensson, Hiljemark, Rohden, Durmaz, Guidetti, Thelin
SOUTH KOREA SUBS: S.G Kim, Jin-H Kim, S-H Jung, Ban-Suk Oh, Young-Sun Yun, Min-woo Kim, Chul Hong, Yo-Han Go, Se-Jong Ju, W-YJung, S.M Moon, Seung-Woo Lee
RESTART! We are back under way at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium - a venue that only opened two months ago and can hold around 43,000 spectators. They have not been treated to a classic so far, but fingers crossed for a couple of goals in the second half!
An early cross into the Sweden box is easily handled by Olsen, but that is a positive sign - Korea have clearly been told to get further up the field by their manager. I'll say it again - a point is not a great result for either of these sides.
SHOT! A good opportunity for Sweden as they hit their opponents on the break. The ball is cut back for Emil Forsberg, who took a touch to compose himself before curling it a fair way over the target from outside the box.
CLOSE! Sebastian Larsson trods on the back of Koo Ja-Cheol's leg and leaves the Korean midfielder in a fair bit of pain. Moments later comes Korea's best moment - Koo Ja-cheol guiding a left-sided cross into the side-netting via his head.
That Koo header was the first time South Korea have threatened the Sweden goal all afternoon. It may have ended in the side-netting but it does at least offer hope that they can snatch a goal against the run of play in this tight match.
SAVE! A second Korean yellow, as Hwang Hee-chan concedes a free kick then has a little kick at Ekdal. Larsson sends the wide free kick into the middle where Toivonen was waiting to meet it, and Cho produced a good stop.
I make that two good saves made by Cho now, on top of those earlier blocks from Kim, to keep the scoreline level. Korea really starting to ride their luck at the moment, with the hour mark fast approaching in Nizhny Novgorod.
A real scare for Sweden as Hwang won the ball from Granqvist and was in behind. The intended cutback was blocked by Jansson for a corner, though, and the next delivery into the box was against helped behind. Good spell from South Korea.
Viktor Claesson with a late challenge on the edge of the opposition box, rightly earning the midfielder a yellow card. Lee is also down for Korea, who are about to make a change or two, meaning a short stoppage in play.
PENALTY TO SWEDEN! Sweden, and manager Janne Andersson in particular, are furious. Kim Min-woo appeared to take down Victor Claesson inside the box but play continued. VAR has come into use, though, and the pen has now been awarded.
GOAL! SWEDEN 1-0 SOUTH KOREA (ANDREAS GRANQVIST, PENALTY)
An unlikely penalty taker, but no mistake whatsoever from a composed Andreas Granqvist. The experienced centre-back rolls the ball to the left of Cho Hyun-woo, who went the opposite way, and Sweden have a lead that they deserve.
SOUTH KOREA SUB! This is a change South Korea looked ready to make 10 minutes ago. Jung Woo-young is on for Kim Shin-wook for the remaining 22 minutes or so, as the Taeguk Warriors chase down an equaliser.
A word on the decision from referee Joel Aguilar
- the official got the call spot on with the use of VAR. The initial call to wave play on was incorrect, but thanks to VAR justice has been served. The new system does have plus points, see!
SUBS! Albin Ekdal, cautioned earlier in the half, has been replaced by Oscar Hiljemark in Sweden's first change of the afternoon. Lee Seung-woo is also on for Koo Ja-cheol in South Korea's third and final alteration.
The game has been a little stop-start since Granqvist successfully converted his penalty 10 minutes ago. That was the seventh spot kick to be awarded in this summer's World Cup, five of which have now been tucked away.
SWEDEN SUB! Ola Toivonen has put in a big shift up top and he has now been replaced by Isaac Kiese Thelin in attack. Janne Andersson still has one more substitution available to make should he wish in the remaining 15 minutes.
Son with a smart header into the middle of the box, but Hwang could not keep his footing when attempting to get on the end of it. This 1-0 scoreline is looking very slender for the Blue-Yellow, with South Korea building some momentum.
SWEDEN SUB! A worrying moment for Sebastian Larsson as he has just hobbled off the pitch to be replaced by Seattle Sounders midfielder Gustav Svensson. The AIK ace's afternoon is over, but what about the rest of his World Cup?
Time fast ticking down for Korea to find a leveller. Bar one headed chance, which resulted in the ball flying into the side-netting, the Asian nation have barely looked like scoring this afternoon. Sweden looking good value for all three points.
Sweden on course for a first opening-game win at the World Cup since 1958. Just six more minutes, plus presumably about four added on, for the Blue-Yellow to see through. Andreas Granqvist's penalty 65 minutes in may well prove to be the difference.
The Koreans looking livelier than they did in the first hour of the match since falling behind, but they have offered far too little to suggest that they have a goal in them. Group F is shaping up nicely, with Mexico and Sweden sitting pretty on three points apiece.
The Taeguk Warriors seeing plenty of the ball now but are still doing so very little with it. Sweden looking very comfortable and they will seriously kick themselves if they concede in the remaining six minutes or so.
Confirmation that four added minutes are to be played at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. No change to the flow of the game - Korea controlling possession but refusing to get the ball into the middle. They are desperate for one last chance.
CHANCE! South Korea did get that one last chance they craved, but Hwang Hee-chan guided the ball over the crossbar when picked out in a promising position. Not an easy header, though it was a chance he should have been making more of.
FULL TIME: SWEDEN 1-0 SOUTH KOREA
The full-time whistle sounds in Nizhny Novgorod, where Sweden have claimed a deserved 1-0 win against South Korea. The match-winning moment came through an Andreas Granqvist penalty, correctly awarded through the use of VAR, in a match that saw Blue-Yellow create the better openings.
That concludes Sports Mole
's live text coverage of events in this Group F clash. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here
, while updates from the second match of the day between Belgium and Panama can be found here
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