Germany’s star goalkeeper and Captain, Manuel Neuer will be healthy to start for his nation after being sidelined since September of 2017 with a fractured foot (via @DFB_Team_EN/Twitter)

FIFA World Cup preview: Defending World Cup champions Germany prepared to lead Group F

Battle for group runner-up will be close with Mexico, Sweden and South Korea

The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins on Thursday, June 14. Leading up to the tourney, we’ll offer our previews and predictions for each of the eight groups. Today, a look at Group F:

Germany

FIFA rank (as of June 7, 2018) : 1

Best player: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)

Despite missing most of the 2017-18 season due to a foot injury Neuer is confirmed to be Germany’s starting goalkeeper for the tournament. His first game back was on June 2 in a friendly against Austria.

One to watch: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

After former captain Philipp Lahm retired from international play after the 2014 World Cup, Kimmich has been set to be his successor at fullback. During 10 qualification matches in Union of European Football Association (UEFA) Group C, Kimmich scored two and provided a team-high nine assists.

Outlook:

Being the reigning World Cup champions, Germany has no other expectations than to blow through the group stage and head straight to the final. They are in good shape to defend their title as they remained undefeated in 2017.

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup preview: Lionel Messi set to shine on the world stage in Group D

Mexico

FIFA rank: 15

Best player: Javier Hernandez (West Ham United)

Hernandez is Mexico’s most prolific goal-scorer in history, with 49 goals in 100 appearances. Though he is not the same player he once was at Manchester United, he will need to provide production to give Mexico a chance to advance to the knockout stages.

One to watch: Hirving Lozano (PSV Eindhoven)

In Lozano’s first season in the Eredivisie, he amassed an impressive 17 goals and 8 assists across 29 matches for the Dutch club. He is a speedy winger who should be poised to make an impact for his country at the World Cup.

Outlook:

Since 1994, Mexico has always made it to the round of 16 and the expectations shouldn’t change this time around. They have a quality squad with a great deal of experience as they are one of the older teams in the tournament.

Sweden

FIFA rank: 24

Best player: Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig)

Forsberg has had a successful career with RB Leipzig, especially after the club placed second in the Bundesliga in 2016-17. The attacking midfielder will have quite the shoes to fill with Zlatan Ibrahimovic absent from their roster.

One to watch: Victor Lindelof (Manchester United)

The 23-year-old defender appeared in 17 matches for United in 2017-18 after he transferred from Portuguese side Benfica in June 2017. He is a quality defender with a bright future.

Outlook:

Ibrahimovic was a once-in-a-generation talent out of Sweden, though the country seems to be more structured with their play than in the past. They’re not in an easy group.

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup preview: Whitecaps’ Kendall Waston hopes to repeat success of Costa Rica in 2014 in Group E

South Korea

FIFA rank: 57

Best player: Heung-min Son (Tottenham Hotspur)

Son holds the title as the most expensive Asian footballer in history after his transfer fee of 22 million British pounds to Tottenham Hotspur in 2015. In 2016-17, Son scored 21 goals for the English side and another 18 in 2017-18. Son is an exceptional forward and has been able to score for Tottenham as a non-starter.

One to watch: Hee-chan Hwang (RB Leipzig)

Hwang is expected to start for South Korea in the World Cup. As a 21-year-old for RB Leipzig in the 2016-17 season he amassed 16 goals.

Outlook:

Their play revolves around Son, the top-scoring Asian player in English Premier League history. They are a good enough team to make it through the group.

Group Winner: Germany. They are the reigning World Cup champions and their roster is much of the same if not better this time around.

Group Runner-up: Mexico. The calibre of their team ranks second-best in this group. Mexico should not have trouble scoring goals especially with the arrival of Lozano.


@kieranroconnor
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