Mexico’s dramatic, and deserved win over defending champions Germany in their first group game has set the proverbial cat amongst several pigeons in changing the landscape of Group F. What, on paper, appeared to a battle between Mexico and Sweden for 2nd place in the group has now shifted to a very unique opportunity for both sides to escape the group and cause another defending champion to fail at the group stage, the 4th in the last 5 World Cups. Mexico have topped their group on 3 occasions; in 2002, 1994, and when they last hosted the tournament back in 1986, with the latter producing one of their two best ever performances, reaching the quarterfinals.

Mexico vs Sweden Prediction and Preview

Sweden’s one and only previous match against Mexico in World Cup competition was also their last win in their opening group stage match in 1958, as hosts. Their performance against Korea Republic was solid and enterprising in respect of dominance, but the inherent concerns about their ability to create – and convert – meaningful chances of the right quality remains an issue. Sweden are largely expected to enter this game having lost to Germany  (their last win over the Germans was in a friendly tournament in 1988, losing 5 of 7 matches since). But regardless of the result against the defending champions, the clash with Mexico takes on considerable significance. Mexico could enter the match facing a prospect of winning the group, likely avoiding Brazil in the Round of 16, and Sweden could create the most surprising result of all, needing a win to secure their progress and possibly relegating Germany to an early tournament exit.

Tactical Considerations:

Mexico’s opening game was a solid showcase of the team’s strengths in counter-pressing, quick attacking transitions and creativity in attack. Particularly in the first half, the North American showed the sheer speed on offer in their side through starlet Hirving Lozano and veteran Javier Hernandez. Much of the danger the Germans failed to contain resulted from slack protection in midfield (both Kroos and Khedira were dribbled past on 7 occasions in the first half, and while Mexico will likely expect to have more possession against Sweden, they’d nonetheless consider their best chance of victory coming from the blitzkrieg style that served them well in the opening game.

Linked to the success of this will be the issue of fitness and mental solidity; Mexico ran out of steam in the 2nd half of their opening game and will need to keep an eye on their capacity to last the full 90 minutes at their breakneck pace. It’s unlikely Mexican coach Osorio will break from the 4231 shape either, given its suitability to Mexico’s attacking shape; expect Hernandez to lead the line ahead of Lozano and Vela, with the only question mark being Layun’s presence on the right flank as opposed to options like Corona, Fabian or even veteran Giovani dos Santos.

Tough tackling midfielder Hector Herrera and experienced Andres Guardado are the most crucial players for Mexico, however, as their roles in attacking transition and defensive protection will speak volumes for a potential win. Herrera in particular was massively influential against Germany in assisting with the defensive heroics towards the end of the match, well supported by the excellent saves of the veteran goalkeeper Ochoa. Mexico’s weakness appears to be its centre backs and right hand side; by contrast, Jesus Gallardo combined superbly from full back with Hirving Lozano to trouble the Germans in several moments.

Sweden, meanwhile, are expected to apply their 442 shape once again, if nothing to flood the pitch in wider areas to try and contain the transitionary spaces that Mexico will seek to exploit. Heroes of qualifying, Emile Forsberg and Marcus Berg, will hope to perform better than they did against Korea Republic, especially in respect of more accurate shooting (only 1 shot on target out of 7 between the pair of them). The experienced spine of captain centre back Andreas Granqvist, centre back Pontus Jansson, central midfielder Albin Ekdal, and forward Ola Toivonen will be crucial in interfering with the combativeness of Mexico’s midfield and cutting off their supply lines to wide areas.

Sweden will also be hopeful for better performances from their left hand side, especially given Mexico’s relative weakness on that side of the pitch. Mikael Lustig and Viktor Claesson combined to great effect on the right hand flank to trouble the Koreans, but they’ll likely have a far more complicated responsibility to contain the danger of Lozano and Gallardo and force infield where Sweden will feel more confident of suppressing the danger posed by the Mexicans.

Of greatest concern is the creativity; Sweden’s shooting was considerably sub-par against Korea, and the Mexican midfield is unlikely to offer the Swedes the same licence to be creative. Again, Forsberg and Berg in particular will be relied upon to improve their contributions to the frontline to better deliver a higher quality of chances or just simply ensure they get the shots on target at least.

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Intriguing Bets:

  • Only one team to score? The last Mexican match involving goals from both sides was in November 2017 when Belgium drew 3-3 with Mexico in a friendly. Since then Mexico have played 8 times, winning 5 and losing 2, and in all 8 cases, with the exception of the 0-0 draw against Wales in May 2018, the winning side was the only side to score the goals.
  • Timing? In 2018 friendlies, Mexico have scored 3 of their 5 goals in the 2nd half of matches.

Match Facts & Summary

  Mexico   Sweden
World Cup Base Moscow Gelendzhik
Odds – Result Win – 1.33 Draw – 2.17 Win – 2.43
2014 World Cup Finish Round of 16 Did Not Qualify
Total Head to Head Record (includes friendlies) 2 Wins 3 Draws 4 Wins
Total Head to Head Record (World Cup Only) 1 Win
Odds – To Win Group 0.60 3.65

 

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Our Prediction:

Mexico’s confidence couldn’t be higher following their superb first ever win over the Germans in competitive football. Their squad seems well equipped to offer a variety of weapons on the bench to handle most of the challenges the Swedes will pose, and the Scandinavain side’s lack of flair and creativity suggests that even with the defensive challenges that Mexico have, Sweden will probably struggle to respond with the goals needed to overwhelm the Mexicans. It’s a game which both sides will want to win to confirm progress to the Round of 16, but Mexico are the better equipped to deal with needing to score more than 1 goal and it’s likely that they’ll do so in confirming a highly memorable group phase.

Read More: Denmark v France PredictionSerbia v Brazil Prediction

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* Please note – odds mentioned above are subject to change, so always check the latest published odds to be fully certain before betting.

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