Germany suffered a surprise defeat to Mexico in their opening game - can the holders bounce back here? Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview their clash with Sweden...
"Germany will spend long periods with possession, and this game will be about breaking down the opposition."
Germany v Sweden
Saturday 19:00, ITV1.
Match Odds: Germany [1.5], Sweden [8.0], The Draw [4.5].
After Germany's surprise 1-0 defeat to Mexico, Jogi Low faces some serious selection dilemmas ahead of this crucial clash with Sweden. Janne Andersson's side won their opening game 1-0 against South Korea, and will be content with a point here. Germany will spend long periods with possession, and this game will be about breaking down the opposition.
Expect German changes
We can expect several changes from Low. There were problems across the side: right-back Jonas Kimmich was bypassed too easily by Mexico's Herving Lozano, left-back Marvin Plattenhardt didn't offer any attacking threat, Toni Kroos was marked out of the game and Sami Khedira wasn't able to cover enough ground alongside him. The attacking quartet were largely anonymous.
Where to start? Well, centre-back Mats Hummels has been ruled out through injury, which means Antonio Rudiger or Nicklas Sule will come into the side alongside Jerome Boateng. It would also be a surprise if Plattenhardt continued at left-back. Jonas Hector offers more going forward, and should come into the side here.
Will Ozil start?
There should also be a change in the centre of midfield. Khedira had a poor game against Mexico and Ilkay Gunodgan is likely to replace him. Low might even opt for a midfield three, because Germany looked overrun last time out - this could involve Mesut Ozil dropping into a deeper, 'number 8' position where he's sometimes played before. Alternatively, Kroos, Khedira and Gundogan could function as a three.
Ozil's place in his favoured number 10 role is very much in doubt, with some suggestions he could be dropped from the side. Julian Draxler is another who will fear for his place, with Thomas Muller also out of form. Essentially, any of the attacking three who played against Mexico could lose their place, with the speedy Marc Reus favourite to come into the side. Julian Brandt remains more likely as a plan B out wide, while Mario Gomez will only be used as a late supersub if needed.
Germany's main problem against Mexico, however, wasn't just about their failure to break down a deep defence. It was also about their failure to play through midfield, with Kroos occupied. However Low formats the side, they must offer more passing options through the centre.
Same old 4-4-2 for Sweden
Sweden are highly unlikely to make any significant changes to their starting XI after the 1-0 win over South Korea, although Victor Lindelhof may come in for Pontus Jansson at the back, should he return from illness.
Otherwise, Andersson will play an old-school Scandinavian 4-4-2. Don't expect them to dominate possession for long periods - they'll play long balls towards Marcus Berg, who makes good runs but lacks finishing quality, and Ola Toivonen, who can hold up possession and bring others into play.
Emil Forsberg, unusually quiet in the opening fixture, will be the key player in open play. He'll be battling against Kimmich, and having seen how Lozano destroyed him on the counter-attack, will probably be given some license to stay forward and remain in a position to break forward.
I think Sweden may frustrate Germany here, and their deep defensive line means Timo Werner might not be able to use his speed in behind. Germany will go for it after the break with the use of substitutes, but I think Sweden can hold Germany for the first half. I'll back a half-time 0-0 at [2.8].
The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson
I am really looking forward to this game as I certainly didn’t expect the Germans to be in trouble after the first game of the tournament. But, the fact is if they get beat off Sweden and the Mexicans get the expected result against South Korea, then that would be a very premature end to their World Cup, such is the magnitude of their opening game defeat.
The sides last met competitively during qualification to the 2014 Brazil World Cup, they shared 16 goals in their two meetings (Germany won 5-3 & Drew 4-4) back then and although Sweden have defeated Germany eight times in their meetings, all eight victories were in friendlies.
I don’t think we will see the back of the Germans at this stage of the competition. They are the superior team and are correctly priced at around [1.48] to win in 90 minutes. They have also been in this position before, they lost their opening game 2-1 against Algeria in 1982, but still made the final, where they lost to Italy.
At the time of writing the second games have seen a dramatic fall in the number of goals being scored, but I don’t see this following that trend. It’s a must win game for Germany and therefore you would expect a more upbeat performance from the start.
I will be splitting my stake, backing Germany/Germany in the Half Time/Full Time market at anything better than [2.2] and also back Germany/Over 2.5 Goals at anything around [3.8].