Things went shockingly off plan for defending champions Germany as they lost 1-0 in their opening game fixture to Mexico.
More than the scoreline, it was the manner of the defeat, with the Deutsch midfield being neutralised, while the defence was caught out on counters a plenty.
Sweden, meanwhile, would be pleased by their typically stodgy 1-0 victory over South Korea and seek to take that confidence in their Group F encounter with Germany.
All’s Not Lost Yet
Almost everything that could go wrong for Germany did go wrong.
Their midfield duo of Kroos and Khedira were off pace and could not keep up with the heavy pressing, high energy style of Herrera and Guardado.
Werner cut an isolated figure at the centre forward position, unable to impose himself in the opposition third, bereft of support from Ozil, the chief playmaker.
The wingbacks, Kimmich and Plattenhardt were forced to provide extra attacking support as they got caught out in counters.
Muller, the self anointed ‘interpreter of space’, did offer much threat in front of goal.
Joachim Low’s 10 year stint with the national team has been marked by continuities in selection, but he might be forced to make wholesale changes to keep Germany’s World Cup dreams alive.
Gundogan should start ahead of Khedira, to relieve Kroos’ burden as the sole playmaker form midfield.
To optimise the goal scoring threat of Muller, he requires a target man who wins headers and can hold the ball up.
Mario Gomez, the veteran striker, is the only option who fits that profile, and had a positive impact when brought on as a substitute.
Shifting Muller to the attacking midfield position behind Gomez would entail that Ozil or perhaps Werner could play from the right wing, either cutting in or using the full width of the pitch.
Jonas Hector seems to have recovered from a flu, which kept him out of the loss against Mexico, and should start ahead of Plattenhardt at left back.
Draxler was one of the few positives in the last game as he troubled Mexico with his darting runs and work rate. He should retain his spot in the left wing.
Sweden on the other hand, won as a result of a VAR assisted penalty, will look to show more attacking intent against Germany.
Their defence, especially Jansson were superb in negating the aerial threat against Korea, but the prospect of Hummels, Boateng, Muller and possibly Gomez would be a different challenge altogether.
Their star playmaker, Emil Forsberg, was not at his best, failing to link effectively with forwards Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen.
With the German full backs exposed against Mexico, Sweden will aim to attack the flanks using Forsberg and Claesson.
Sebastian Larsson and Albin Ekdal, the two central midfielders, will have to do a better job of controlling the game against the more talented Germany.
A solid defensive plan coupled with enterprising play from the wings could be the recipe for another upset in Group F.
Players To Watch Germany
Jonas Hector: The Koln captain and German left back was sorely missed in the last game. His ability to intelligently use the ball and arrive at important positions to deliver crosses is an essential aspect of Low’s tactics, especially when the likes of Kroos are pressed by the opposition midfielders.
Hector in the 2017-18 season, played a more advanced quasi No. 10 role, evidence of his increasing comfort with the ball. For Germany, he could operate as an auxiliary midfield while in position and a marauding left back during counters. This balance would be crucial against a solid Sweden team.
Ola Toivonen: Ola Toivonen has been long term fixture for Sweden, earning 60 caps till date, making his debut. When the likes of Ibrahimovic, Larsson and Johan Elmander were in full flow, Toivonen emerges as a starter in the 2018 World Cup.
Standing at over six feet, Toivonen is smooth on the ball and an expert at link up play. He also possesses a great shot from distance. Apart from Forsberg, Toivonen could be the source of the silken touch most necessary in the opposition third to score goals.
Predicted Lineups Germany: 1-4-2-3-1
Neuer- Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Hector- Gundogan, Kroos- Ozil, Muller, Draxler- Mario Gomez
Olsen- Lustig, Jansson, Granquist, Augustinsson- Claesson, Larsson, Ekdal, Forsberg- Toivonen, Berg
Head to Head Germany Sweden
Matches Played 36 36
Wins 15 13
Losses 13 15Draws 8 8