Group F has boasted some cracking matches so far. Mexico’s defeat of Germany really opened up the group, while Germany’s injury time winner against Sweden means that the final qualifying spot should be between those two teams.
Yet if Sweden win this match and Germany defeat Korea Republic we will have three teams on six points, and goal difference will become very important. It would be crazy to see Mexico eliminated after winning their first two matches!
This scenario is unlikely, especially as Mexico have shown good form so far in this tournament. They will be confident, having qualified for the second round in their last seven consecutive attempts and have helped eliminate the likes of France, Belgium and Croatia (twice) in the process. From the 1986 World Cup onwards, Mexico has lost just one of ten matches against European opposition in the group stage.
Sweden meanwhile will also be quietly confident of getting the win here. They have a superior record against the Mexicans overall, and were good enough to qualify ahead of 2010 finalists the Netherlands and knock out four-time World Cup winners Italy. They have a hard working squad that will prove difficult for Mexico to overcome, and have also qualified for the Round of 16 in their last three attempts.
In fact, there is very little to split these sides on paper. Sweden will be playing reasonably close to home, although their lack of experience at big tournaments is a worry – none of their three first-choice goalkeepers have more than ten international caps. Manchester United’s Victor Lindelof and RB Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg are the biggest names on the team sheet, yet both are young and have minimal experience on the big stage.
Mexico boast more international caps although are similar in that they too have few notable big names. The majority of the squad play in the Mexican domestic league, which although strong and competitive does not quite compare to European competition. Will this be a factor when the sides meet?
At the end of the day, Mexico only need a draw while Sweden will almost surely need a win. Expect to see a compact Mexico looking to strike on the break, with Sweden dominating possession. It’s going to be tight.
The sportsbooks certainly can’t split the pair. Mexico enter as the slight favourite, available for +128, while Sweden are quite close and will start at +215. Watch for these odds to fluctuate significantly as the match approaches. The draw is the third option, available for +229 and is very tempting considering Mexico only need this result.
We’re not in the business of sitting on the fence though. Our pick is the Mexicans in what is expected to be a low-scoring, nervy affair. A 2-1 scoreline, which has been very frequent in this tournament, is our prediction.