Preview: Sweden v South Korea

Sweden will be looking to prove they can fire on all cylinders without Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they open their World Cup campaign against South Korea.

2018 FIFA World Cup
18 June 2018
Group F
Kick-off: 20:00 HKT
Venue: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium

Referee: J. Aguilar
Assistants: J. Francisco Zumba, J. Carlos Mora
Fourth Official: N. Hauata
Fifth Official: B. Brial

Previous encounter:

South Korea 2-2 Sweden (Friendly) 12/11/2005

South Korea goalscorers: Ahn Jung-Hwan (7′), Kim Young-Chul (52′)

Sweden goalscorers: J. Elmander (9′), M. Rosenberg (57′)

Players to watch:

Son Heung-Min was in fine form for Tottenham in 2017/18, scoring 12 goals in 37 Premier League appearances – 27 of which were starts. He will be the key man for South Korea as they look to repeat their heroic 2002 campaign, which saw them reach the semi-finals.

The big name in the Swedish side is Victor Lindelof. The 23-year-old defender has had a less than impressive start to life at Manchester United, playing just 17 Premier League games in 2017/18. However, he has a long way ahead of him in his career, and this World Cup will give him a chance to make a name for himself.

Team form and manager quotes:

Sweden have failed to score in their last three games, losing 1-0 to Romania and drawing 0-0 with Denmark and Peru.

However, Janne Andersson’s side are still riding high from their remarkable qualification play-off win over Italy. This came after they finished above the Netherlands in Group A.

Andersson has impressed since taking charge in 2016, but he finds himself under pressure to justify the exclusion of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from his World Cup squad.

“This is incredible! This player has stopped to play with Sweden one year and a half ago and we are still here talking about him,” Andersson said after Sweden upset Italy.

“Gosh, we need to talk about the great players we have in this team I believe.”

Andersson’s opposite number, Shin Tae-Yong, was far more eager to discuss his own country’s media darling, Son.

“Son still plays well for the national team, but when he plays for Tottenham, there are many good players and opposing defences are not only focusing on him,” Shin told Reuters.

“But when he plays for the national team, the opposition focuses on defending against Son Heung-Min. Sometimes he has struggled to overcome that but now I think he’s doing well.

“But to become a big player, he has to overcome that barrier.”

South Korea are also on a poor run of form, having lost 3-1 to Bosnia and Herzegovina, drawn 0-0 to Bolivia and lost 2-0 to Senegal in their last three matches.

Team news:

Sweden are expected to start with Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen upfront, with the experienced Sebastian Larsson pulling strings in midfield.

The centre-back pairing of Lindelof and Andreas Granqvist kept Italy out for 180 minutes and will be looking to carry their good form into the tournament.

The lanky Kim Shin-Wook is expected to lead the line for South Korea, with Ki Sung-Yueng set to captain the team from midfield.

Kwon Chang-Hoon is a notable absentee from their squad after an achilles injury ruled him out of the tournament.