The FIFA World Cup is near and national teams are certainly gearing up in hopes to reach their respective targets in Russia.
In Group F, Germany are looking to defend their title while other three nations are looking to advance towards the knockout stages.
This cluster includes teams with World Cup history, while other teams are hoping to cement their places as the best in the world.
With one nation as the favourites throughout the entire competition, here’s how the others in the group stack up.
Not much more can be said about the defending champions that can be stressed enough. They are heading into Russia as big favourites to lift the World Cup.
They have a strong core and the depth that can compete against anyone in the world, and with an unbeaten run in 2017, there is little to show that the Germans are slowing down.
Russia may be a good place for them to win another title, already capturing the Confederations Cup earlier in July, which may be a foresight to how things will unfold later on in the campaign.
Germany have a lot of superstar talent but Toni Kroos may be the man to watch as he orchestrates the offence from the midfield. The Germans play beautiful football and Kroos’ touch and precise decision making should be the difference on the pitch.
With much of the attention with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it is intriguing to know that Sweden are playing their first World Cup football since 2006.
Zlatan was a larger-than-life persona and since retiring from international football, the Swedes are looking at who can pick up the mantle from the towering striker.
However, looking into perspective, the national team seems more fluid and have impressive structure which should turn them into a genuine threat, but a player like Zlatan who can change the momentum with a swing of a leg should emerge if Sweden are looking to get big upsets against decent teams.
With that, the responsibility may be on Emil Forsberg’s shoulders as he leads the Sweden attack in the World Cup. Facing off against capable teams, Forsberg should maintain his aggressive nature in front of goal and to take advantage of the chances offered.
At the helm of Asian football, South Korea have been a World Cup staple since 1986. They have shown their class and are now hoping to reach new heights in Russia.
Many are holding on to their incredible run in 2002 where they reached the semi-finals, but with their qualifying run as a benchmark, things may be rocky for the South Korean club.
The team may have still been adapting under new management in Shin Tae-Yong, but they need to step-up as they are grouped against a tough group who are looking to get big wins as often as possible.
South Korea have three players who ply their trade in the English Premier League, Ki Sung-Yeung in Swansea City, Lee Chung-Yong with Crystal Palace and Son Heung-Min with Tottenham Hotspur. The last of the three should be their catalyst in this competition as his experience against the best has to offer should translate well in Russia.
Looking to go deep in the competition are Mexico who have featured in the last six World Cup competitions.
Despite being regular fixtures, the Mexican squad have failed to advance past the last-16 of the competition.
They certainly have the talent and it was in full view during the qualifiers when they dominated the competition – qualifying with three matches on hand. Led by coach Juan Carlos Osorio, the Mexican squad will hope that they have enough this time to make a statement in Russia.
On the pitch, veteran star Chicharito should still be the catalyst on the offensive end. His impressive club resume is enough to say he is a star, but the West Ham United player is also an inspirational leader for the El Tri.
TEAMS TO GO THROUGH
Picking someone other than Germany to finish at the top of the table is absurd. The other squads may present challenges against the defending champions, but betting against them to fail to get the win in 90 minutes may be asking too much.
With this, Mexico are again likely to make it past the group stages and into the knockout stages. Whether they will finally break through past the last-16 is another question altogether.