Sweden and South Korea will enter this match knowing that a loss will practically end their chances of progressing to the Round of 16. By sharing a group with defending champions Germany, you’re effectively fighting for second-place, and as Mexico are the other team in the group, it really is do or die for these two teams.
Both nations have experienced a degree of success at the World Cup. Sweden hosted the tournament back in 1958 and finished runner-up to Brazil, while South Korea have also held the world’s biggest sporting event, and shocked the globe with their run to the semi-finals in 2002. Yet this is 2018 and this is Russia, and both sides enter with few hopes of repeating history.
Sweden were solid if not spectacular throughout qualification. While they did see off four-time winners Italy in the playoff round, they finished with a record of six wins, one draw and three defeats during the first round, finishing just ahead of the Netherlands on goal difference. In truth, it was a tough group that also featured a talented French side, and they did complete the initial phase of qualification with the best goal-scoring record (26 from 10 matches).
South Korea meandered through what was definitely the easier of the two Asian qualification groups. They only won four of their ten matches in the third round, finishing above Syria, Uzbekistan, China and Qatar to qualify for their ninth consecutive tournament.
So who wins this match? For us it has to be Sweden, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Sweden have simply faced better opposition for the duration of their qualification campaign, which will have them playing at a much higher level than the Koreans, who haven’t played against any teams of European quality in a competitive match.
Secondly, Sweden’s record against Asian nations is emphatic – just 3 losses in 42 matches. On the other hand, Korea Republic have a poor record against European teams. Asian football has progressed considerably, but still has a long way to go to rival even teams like Sweden at the World Cup.
Sweden start as favourites here, and are incredibly good value considering the above. You can get nearly double your money back at odds of -103, while the draw is at +222 and the Koreans are at +310.
We’re not sure why the odds are so close here – we are backing South Korea to go winless at this World Cup and we’re tipping a comfortable victory to the Swedes in this match – 2-0 the final score.