2018 World Cup, Group F Preview: Joachim Low's Germany bid to retain trophy

by Mike Holden / 12 June 2018, 16:43

Group F features defending World Cup champions Germany, a Mexico outfit with a neat blend of experience and youth, plus a Sweden side without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and let’s not forget South Korea who should not be underestimated.

  • Joachim Low (Germany)
  • Juan Carlos Osorio (Mexico)
  • Janne Andersson (Sweden)
  • Shin Tae-yong (South Korea)

Germany Manager: Joachim Low

Joachim Low

Joachim Low heads into his sixth major tournament in charge of holders Germany hoping to become the first man to win back to back World Cups since Vittorio Pozzo with Italy in the 1930s.

The 58-year-old was an attacking midfielder who spent the majority of his 18-year playing career with Freiburg (across three separate stints) before making his name in management with Stuttgart, guiding them to German Cup success in 1997 and the penultimate final of the now-defunct UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1998.

Spells in Turkey and Austria followed before the call came from Jurgen Klinsmann to assist in the revival of the national team when Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006. Low gained full control after that tournament and has been blessed with an astonishing volume of emerging talent ever since, as a government initiative to plough £1bn into 121 national talent centres in the early 2000s began to bear fruit.

That's not to downplay Low's achievements in guiding Die Mannschaft to three semi finals and two finals in the past five tournaments. He has everything he needs to be successful in the international arena but he's a very thoughtful operator who adds value in his selection process by accounting for dressing room dynamics and getting the balance right.

Germany will be there or thereabouts once again. Another semi-final appearance is almost a formality.

Interesting fact: Low has lost his driving licence twice for reckless behaviour behind the wheel; once for speeding and once for being caught on his mobile.

Prediction: Semi-Finals

Manager Mexico: Juan Carlos Osorio

Juan Carlos Osorio

The Colombian started his backroom career in the early 2000s as a strength and conditioning coach at Manchester City, working under Kevin Keegan and then Stuart Pearce, before carving his own path in management with Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls in the MLS.

Club stints in Colombia and Mexico followed before he landed at Brazilian giants Sao Paulo, only to walk away just five months into the job when the Mexican national team job came about in October 2015.

Statistically the best coach in El Tri history, the jury remains out in Mexico due to his capacity to infuriate fans with his constant chopping and changing of systems and personnel, which has backfired on a couple of notable occasions with heavy defeats to Chile (0-7) in the Copa America and Germany (1-4) in last summer's Confederations Cup.

He clearly enjoys the tactical side of the game. His press conferences can go on longer than most, at least once the subject turns to the formation and his decision-making process. He goes into great detail, often beyond the point of comprehension for most of the assembled journalists.

Mexico should escape the group - they have the talent - but expect Osorio to catch the blame when they suffer their customary defeat at the first hurdle in the knockout stage.

Interesting fact: Osorio holds a diploma in Science and Football from Liverpool John Moores University.

Prediction: Last-16

Sweden Manager: Janne Andersson

Janne Andersson

The 55-year-old is a journeyman of Swedish football, having managed six different clubs across an 18-year period, including three stints with hometown club Halmstads BK.

It was a career that finally came to the boil in 2015 when he guided IFK Norrkoping to the Allsvenskan title in his fifth season, which led to Andersson being viewed as the natural choice for the national team gig when Erik Hamren stepped down after Euro 2016.

It was a change that also coincided with the international retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which was a daunting prospect at first but one for which Andersson was well primed to deal with as a staunch realist who puts great faith in hard work, equality and the power of the collective.

Zlatan was larger than life but you sense that enthusiasm has blossomed among the rest of the squad now that success is measured in simple ways. Sweden graft without the ball and do the basics brilliantly, winning a high percentage of second balls and crowding out opponents in certain areas of the pitch.

Self-sacrifice is the game that Andersson preaches and the players have willingly bought into the post-Zlatan team ethic. It might not amount to much at this tournament but Sweden won't disgrace themselves, even if they fail to escape the group.

Interesting fact: Andersson walks to work every day, a picturesque eight-mile trek from his home one side of Stockholm to his office at the Friends Arena on the other.

Prediction: Group Stages

South Korea Manager: Shin Tae-yong

Shin Tae Yong

One of four managers in the Asian World Cup contingent to have been in charge for less than a year, Shin Tae-yong replaced German Uli Stielike towards the end of a dismal qualifying campaign that had yielded just two points from five away games when the change came about last June.

A one-club man in Korean football with Seongnam, he made over 400 club appearances for the Magpies as an attacking midfielder between 1992 and 2004 before broadening his horizons as a senior pro and then assistant coach with Queensland Roar in Australia.

Naturally, that only prepared him for a return to Seongnam as manager in 2009. He would lead the club to Asian Champions League glory a year later before taking on roles at various levels with the Korean FA, first guiding the Under-23 side through to the quarter-finals at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and then managing the Under-20s at last year's World Cup, which they hosted.

He has a job on his hands to achieve widespread recognition with the seniors though. Results have been patchy so far and there's a general acceptance that Korea's hopes at this tournament rest almost entirely on the form of Son Heung-min.

Creating a system that gets the best out of the Tottenham man is the priority. The fact that every opponent will make special plans to limit Son's threat and restrict his involvement is the problem.

Interesting fact: Shin values the opinion of an extra pair of eyes in the stands, so likes to wear a headset on the touchline. He will be prevented from doing so at Russia 2018, though, as such devices are banned.

Prediction: Group Stages

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