Every day at Sportsgrape we’ll be previewing every World Cup match with team news, tips and predictions ahead of the day’s games. Wednesday’s action sees Germany and Brazil facing must-win encounters in order to reach the last-16, and both could be eliminated if they lose.
GAME ONE: South Korea vs Germany (3pm kick-off BST)
Germany used their ‘get out of jail free card’ to dramatic effect on Saturday in their last-minute 2-1 win over Sweden.
What Joachim Loew said to the team at half-time of that game surely worked as they responded very well to going 1-0 down to the Swedes and absolutely dominated the second-half of the match. They still have some work to do though as they must match Sweden’s result in the corresponding game in Group F to reach the last-16.
South Korea, despite losing both of their World Cup games so far, are in the fortunate and bizzare position where they could still qualify for the knockout rounds. They must beat Germany on Wednesday afternoon and hope that Mexico also beat Sweden and that would see them progress to the next round of the competition. However beating Germany is no easy feat, especially after the wave of confidence Die Mannschaft are on following their dramatic success against Sweden.
Germany will be without the suspended Jerome Boateng, who was sent off late in the game against Sweden, and the injured Sebastian Rudy, who was forced off was a broken nose during the first-half. The Germans could, however, have Mats Hummels returning to their back-line, who missed the Sweden game due to a neck injury. It is unclear as to whether Mesut Ozil, who was dropped from the Germany starting XI for the first time in a major tournament in 26 games, will return to the side.
South Korea, meanwhile, have been dealt an injury blow as captain Ki Seung-Yeung as the Swansea City midfielder has a calf strain. Experienced defender Park Joo-Ho, who spent two season at Borussia Dortmund between 2015 and 2017, will also be missing through injury. Korea coach Shin Tae-Young may also be inclined to play an attacking line-up given the must-win nature of the game.
Germany finally have their mojo back and should pick up the win which will take them to the last-16 though. Don’t completely write off the South Koreans, however, as their attacking line-up may prove to be a problem for Die Mannschaft’s open back-line, so expect an open match.
Match Prediction: South Korea 1-3 Germany
GAME TWO: Mexico vs Sweden (3pm kick-off BST)
Mexico have turned out to be the surprise package in this year’s tournament, and their attractive style of play along with their passionate supporters mean that they deserve all the plaudits that come their way.
Despite their flawless start to the tournament, however, they are still not quite through to the knockout rounds. ‘El Tri’ simply need a point against Sweden to advance to the last-16, and could also go through with a defeat, providing Germany fail to beat South Korea.
Sweden were very unfortunate to lose to Germany last time around given their determined performance in Sochi. The Swedes must now better Die Mannschaft’s result in the corresponding game in Group F; if they match the result then Germany will advance to the knockout rounds due to their head-to-head record.
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio is normally notorious for tinkering with his starting XI but shocked followers and fans of the Mexico national side when he only made one change for his side’s second World Cup group game against South Korea. The Mexico coach is expected to go with a similar line-up once again against Sweden with qualification still not secured. Sweden are also expected to go with a similar line-up to that of the Germany game.
With Sweden in desperate need of a win, Mexico will surely use the counter-attacking set-up which worked so well in their 1-0 win over Germany in their opening group game. El Tri showed their ability to damage opponents on the break, and will allow Sweden to do all the running during the ninety minutes. Sweden will have more of the play, but Mexico will have more of the initiative.
Match Prediction: Mexico 1-0 Sweden
GAME THREE: Serbia vs Brazil (7pm kick-off BST)
The evening encounters involve the final round of group games from Group E, with Brazil also under pressure to qualify for the last-16.
Like Germany, El Selecao left it late in their second group game against Costa Rica as two stoppage time goals gave the five-time World Cup winners a 2-0 win to send them top of the group. There is a feeling that we still have not seen the best of Brazil in this tournament yet, as Tite’s men have stumbled through their opening two group games despite gaining four points out of a possible six.
This contrasts massively with the form of Wednesday’s opponents Serbia, who have been very impressive throughout the tournament, but have not got the rub of the green that their play deserved. Although they were beaten 2-1 by Switzerland in their last game, they should have had a clear penalty in the second-half with the game finely poised a 1-1.
Both sides are expected to be unchanged from their last group game, but Brazil do have injuries amongst their reserve options as Danilo is out with a thigh problem and Douglas Costa, who made the difference against Costa Rica as a second-half substitute, has a hamstring problems.
This game will be tougher than anticipated for the Brazilians, with Serbia being one of the more physical teams in the tournament. Perhaps this is the game where we see the best of Lazio’s Serbian midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, while Fulham striker Aleksandr Mitrovic will be a tough customer for Brazil’s centre-halves. El Selecao’s experience should get them through, but it will be a fascinating encounter.
Match Prediction: Serbia 1-2 Brazil
GAME FOUR: Switzerland vs Costa Rica (7pm kick-off BST)
The Swiss looked to be heading out of the tournament when they were 1-0 down at half-time against Serbia in their last group game. But goals from Premier League stars Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri turned the tide and put Switzerland in a commanding position to reach the knockout stages.
Costa Rica, on the other hand, look a shadow of the team that surprised everyone and reached the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup and two uninspiring defeats in their opening matches of the tournament means they are heading home early from Russia.
Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic has no real injury concerns ahead of his side’s final group game against the South Americans, but is set to drop striker Haris Seferovic after two sub-standard performances in his country’s opening group games. Either 21 year-old wonderkid Breel Embolo or Dinamo Zagreb forward Mario Gavranovic will come into the side in Seferovic’s absence. Xhaka and Shaqiri, who both had disciplinary proceedings opened against them by FIFA following their controversial and political goal celebrations in the Serbia match, will both be available.
Costa Rica are expected to make wholesale changes to their line-up following their elimination from the tournament. This could mean a first start for Arsenal striker Joel Campbell, who has so far only impacted the tournament from the substitutes bench.
A win for Switzerland will see them through to the knockout stages with one or both of Serbia or Brazil set to drop points. Costa Rica have only pride to play for in this tournament, and with work ethic levels lower than normal, the Swiss should breeze past their South American opponents.
Match Prediction: Switzerland 2-0 Costa Rica