Preview: Germany v Sweden

Germany will be aiming to get their World Cup title defence back on track when they lock horns with Sweden at the Olimpiyskiy Stadion Fisht on Saturday.

2018 FIFA World Cup
23 June 2018
Group F
Kick-off: 20:00 (GMT+2)
Venue: Olimpiyskiy Stadion Fisht

Referee: S. Marciniak
Assistants: P. Sokolnicki, T. Listkiewicz
Fourth official: R. Sato

Previous encounter:
Sweden 3-5 Germany (2014 World Cup qualifier) 15/10/2013
Sweden goalscorers: T. Hysen (6′, 69′), A. Kacaniklic (42′)
Germany goalscorers: M. Ozil (45′), M. Gotze (53′), A. Schurrle (57′, 66′, 76′)

Players to watch:
Mesut Ozil wasn’t at his best against Mexico last time out. The Arsenal playmaker is one of the best passers in the game, but has often been criticised for his lackadaisical approach on the pitch. The Germans need Ozil ticking if they are to fire on all cylinders in Russia.

Emil Forsberg will be targeting an improvement after not making much of an impact against South Korea. The RB Leipzig winger got himself into good positions, but failed to take any of his chances. The Swedes will be looking to Forsberg’s guile to unlock the champions.

Team form and manager quotes:
The 2014 champions made a stuttering start in Russia, losing their Group F opener 1-0 to Mexico, who caused them numerous problems on the counter.

Die Mannschaft always seem to peak at the right time in major tournaments, although results in the build-up to the finals suggested they are far from hitting top form.

Joachim Low’s side managed just one victory in their six friendlies prior to the setback against El Tri, drawing three and losing the other two.

But Low intends to stick to his guns after insisting he has complete trust in his players to get the job done.

“Why should I lose faith with my important players? My fundamental faith in those players will not be broken because of one game,” Low said.

“Of course, one or two might be on the bench, but I trust them because they’re still at a very high level. To question these players now would be fatal. Of course I don’t.

“There is no point questioning our idea. There will be corrections, to address the mistakes, but there’s no doubting our playing style.”

Sweden had a similarly poor run going into the World Cup, losing to Chile and Romania, while drawing with Denmark and Peru.

The Blagult opened their campaign on a winning note though after beating South Korea 1-0 courtesy of another intervention from VAR.

Janne Andersson masterminded victory over Italy in the play-offs to guide his country to the World Cup, but the head coach refuted suggestions that the achievement had led to over-confidence in the Swedish camp.

“I think hubris is probably what we’re least afflicted by,” Andersson said. “We know why we’re here, we have a well earned spot here at World Cup. There have been no shortcuts, we worked very hard to get here and I can assure everyone there is no hubris in the squad.

“This is what you spend your entire life and career working towards. I can’t say I’m enjoying it entirely, it’s a tough job but we can qualify by beating the world champions and that is extraordinary.

“It’s quite amazing, it’s the second match and Germany were the big favourites ahead of tournament but we have the prospect of beating them to [potentially] knock them out and qualify for second stage. I don’t think many people could have imagined that.”

Team news:
Mats Hummels is set to sit this one out for Germany after sustaining a neck injury in training on Thursday and missing Friday’s session.

Low revealed that Mario Gomez will likely start on Saturday, but didn’t specify whether the striker would replace Timo Werner or play alongside him up front.

Illness continues to affect Sweden’s preparations, with Pontus Jansson, Filip Helander and Marcus Rohden the latest players to be struck down by a stomach bug.

Victor Lindelof had to withdraw from their opener against South Korea due to a virus, but could return for this weekend’s clash. Isaac Kiese Thelin is ruled out with an ankle injury.