MX23RW : Sunday, July 25 14:15:53| >> :600:328110:328110:
Jun 18, 2018 at 1pm UK at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
Attendance: 42,300
South KoreaSouth Korea
Granqvist (65' pen.)
FT(HT: 0-0)

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

Sports Mole provides predicted XIs, team news and a full match preview for the World Cup Group F clash between Sweden and South Korea in Nizhny Novgorod.

Sweden and South Korea will both be looking to capitalise on a shock defeat for Group F favourites Germany when they get their World Cup campaigns underway in Nizhny Novgorod on Monday.

Both teams will hope to make the most of an early unexpected twist from a group from which neither were amongst the favourites to qualify, but by the same token defeat in their opener could leave them with a mountain to climb.


The Sweden team line up before their friendly game with Denmark on June 2, 2018© Reuters

For Sweden, Monday's contest will be a match 12 years in the making. Despite boasting one of the best players of the generation in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Scandinavians have not graced the world stage since 2006.

Ibrahimovic has now retired, but even without him the team has managed to return to the big time, and facing three former World Cup finalists on the road to Russia will surely only boost their belief that they can enjoy a memorable campaign.

Many fans may have feared another four years in the World Cup wilderness when drawn alongside France and the Netherlands in World Cup qualifying, but Janne Andersson's side pipped the latter to a playoff place on goal difference before stunning Italy in that playoff to confirm their place in Russia.

Bigger scalps than South Korea have been claimed already, then, but Sweden's form since booking their spot at the tournament will be a concern ahead of this long-awaited opening game.

Andersson's side have not won a game since their first-leg playoff victory over Italy in November and failed to score in any of their last three outings prior to the tournament - most recently recording back-to-back goalless draws against Denmark and Peru in their warm-up matches, during which they registered a combined two shots on target.

Indeed, since all but sealing their place in Russia with an 8-0 drubbing of lowly Luxembourg, Sweden have scored just two goals in seven FIFA-approved games, and another blank on Monday would leave them facing a difficult task ahead of matches against defending champions Germany and their conquerors Mexico, the latter of whom were hugely impressive in their opening encounter.

Victory over South Korea is likely to be imperative, then, but Sweden have failed to win any of their last seven World Cup openers stretching all the way back in 1958, when they went on to finish as runners-up behind Pele's Brazil on home soil.

However, on the past three occasions Sweden have made it to the World Cup they have made it past the first round, and not since 1990 have they suffered a defeat in the group stages of the tournament - winning three and drawing six of their nine such games in that time.

It is getting beyond the second stage which has been the main problem for Sweden - managing that just once since 1958 - but for now, Andersson and his players will be solely focused on getting their campaign off to a winning start on Monday.

Recent form: WDLLDD

South Korea

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

South Korea are fast becoming veterans of the World Cup scene, and when they line up for Monday's match against Sweden it will be the ninth successive time that they have appeared at the tournament.

Despite that experience, not much is expected of the Asian outfit in Group F; they are placed 57th in the latest FIFA rankings, 33 places behind Sweden and further still behind Mexico and the top-ranked Germany.

Korea do not come into the tournament in particularly high spirits either, winning just one of their last six games including defeats to World Cup-bound Poland and Senegal.

The Senegal reverse, which came just a week prior to this opening game, made it back-to-back matches without scoring too, meaning that Korea - like Sweden - have struggled in front of goal during the buildup to this tournament.

The 2002 World Cup semi-finalists will need talisman Son Heung-min to be on top form if they are to improve that barren spell in front of goal, and it is not much of an exaggeration to suggest that their hopes of pushing for a place in the last 16 lie firmly on the Tottenham Hotspur striker's shoulders.

Korea's road to Russia was far from straightforward too, and manager Shin Tae-Yong has been forced to conduct something of a rescue job after taking charge of the team with only two games left in qualifying.

Former boss Uli Stielike was sacked following a defeat to Qatar, and while subsequent goalless draws against Iran and Uzbekistan proved enough to seal their place at the tournament, they did little to increase the belief amongst the supporters.

Few sets of fans are so passionate about their team when things are going well, though, so a positive start would do wonders to restore a feelgood factor on the stands and on the pitch, which they will hope can carry them to further shocks this summer.

Recent form: LLWLDL

Team News

Emil Forsberg in action for Sweden on November 13, 2017© Reuters

Andersson must decide whether or not to try a new strike partnership in the opening game after Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen - the only two players in the Swedish squad to have reached double figures at international level - failed to impress during the warm-up games.

Manchester United's Victor Lindelof is expected to start at centre-back, while the likes of Mikael Lustig and the 100-capped Sebastian Larsson also ply their trade in Britain.

Sweden's main threat of the post-Ibrahimovic era is expected to be Emil Forsberg, whose performances in the RB Leipzig midfield recently have led many to tip him as one of the potential stars of the tournament.

Son carries the main weight of expectation on his shoulders for Korea, but the likes of Koo Ja-cheol - who has 19 international goals to his name - could also help to shoulder the burden.

Former Swansea City midfielder Ki Sung-yueng - who is a free agent after leaving the Welsh outfit in the wake of their relegation - is the most experienced member of the Korean squad with 102 caps to his name.

Sweden possible starting lineup:
Olsen; Lustig, Granqvist, Lindelof, Augustinsson; Claesson, Larsson, Ekdal, Forsberg; Berg, Toivonen

South Korea possible starting lineup:
Kim Seung-gyu; Lee Yong, Kim Young-gwon, Jang Hyun-soo, Park Joo-ho; Ki Sung-yueng, Jung Woo-young; Hwang Hee-chan, Lee Jae-sung, Son Heung-min; Kim Shin-wook

Head To Head

This will be the fifth meeting between the two teams, and Sweden are unbeaten in the previous four, including a 12-0 win at the 1948 Olympics.

Sweden also ran out winners with a more modest 2-0 triumph in 1996, but both contests this century have ended all square - the most recent of which was a 2-2 draw in November 2005.

Never before have the two teams met at a World Cup, though, with all three games since that 1948 demolition coming in friendlies.

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We say: Sweden 2-0 South Korea

Neither side come into this game in particularly good form, but Sweden should have enough to end their long wait for an opening-match World Cup win, and we're backing them to do so by a margin which would take them top of Group F.

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The Sweden team line up before their friendly game with Denmark on June 2, 2018
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Sunday's key events

· Wave conditions permitting, surfing will make its Olympic debut (11pm-8.20am)

· Another debutant sport at this Olympics, most eyes will be on American Nyjah Huston in the men's street contest as he looks to add Olympic gold to his four world titles and 12 X-Games golds. (12.30am-5am)

· History beckons for Jade Jones as she looks to become a three-time Olympic champion - something never done before in the sport prior to these Games (2am-1.45pm)
· Team GB's Bradly Sinden - world champion two years ago - is also going for gold in the men's -68kg category (2am-1.45pm)

· Already-legendary gymnast Simone Biles makes her first appearance of the Games in the women's qualifying event (2am-2pm)

· The first swimming medals of the Games will be dished out, with home favourite Daiya Seto going for gold in the men's 400m individual medley (2.30am-4.20am)

· Lizzie Deignan is among the Team GB team looking for success in the women's road race (5am-9.30am)

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