Mats Hummels needs to follow Andreas Granqvist's marker and more Germany v Sweden key battles

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Differing first games: Mats Hummels (l) and Andreas Granqvist.

Germany‘s World Cup clash with Sweden is simply a win-at-all-costs fixture for Die Mannschaft.

The defending champions could be on the brink of elimination should they fail to gain all three points against the Swedes, following their shock Group F opening defeat against Mexico.

Joachim Low’s side have faced heavy criticism after going down 1-0 last Sunday, in what was a scoreline that actually flattered the Germans.

For Sweden, after a 1-0 victory over South Korea first-up, the Scandinavian outfit go into this one full of confidence.

Here, we look at the key battles.

The first line of defence

Mats Hummels v Andreas Granqvist

The Bayern Munich star, 29, is certainly more well known than his 33-year-old Sweden counterpart, who will ply his trade with Helsingborgs IF from next season. But, Granqvist, the talismanic captain of this side, rose to the occasion with a penalty-kick goal and all-round inspiring defensive display against Mexico.

As well as his goal, the centre-back made three key passes, had a team-high 88 touches and was a colossus, making three clearances, two blocked shots and two interceptions in helping Sweden keep their fifth clean sheet in six matches.

Hummels, certainly from a defensive perspective, could learn a thing or two from that showing. He really struggled to get to grips with Mexico’s advanced forward play, counter-attacks and looked extremely vulnerable to pace.

The battle in midfield

Toni Kroos v Sebastian Larsson

The Real Madrid superstar was one of the disappointments in the first round of fixtures, perhaps showing signs of a heavy second half to the season with Los Blancos.

Unusually, his touch and passing was a bit off as Germany found themselves being over-run in the engine room. Sami Khedira’s rather sluggish performance did nothing to help matters.

The inclusion of Ilkay Gundogan alongside him should help to stem the tide when they come up against a workmanlike Swedish middle, lacking quality but not short of resolve.

Larsson, a mainstay in the Premier League for several years with Birmingham City, Sunderland and Hull, along with Albin Ekdal, provided a solid base to protect the back four.

The Men in Attack

Timo Werner v Marcus Berg

The Die Mannschaft hitman flattered to deceive in a lone striking role in the defeat to Mexico, struggling to get to grips with a position in which Low likes his striker to drop deeper and influence the play as a false nine.

At just 22, the RB Leipzig man is still developing his craft at international level but will need to bring more oomph to the table having failed to produce much from his three shots on goal in Group F round one.

He will certainly need to link-up with Julian Draxler and Thomas Muller to greater effect if Germany are going to crack a firm Swedish defence, while Berg – the 31-year-old Al Ain striker who enjoyed a prolific past season in the Arabian Gulf League – is tasked with the responsibility of breaking German hearts.

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How Lionel Messi's Argentina can still qualify after painful 3-0 Croatia loss

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Lionel Messi‘s Argentina were hammered 3-0 by Croatia after goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic on Thursday and their World Cup dream looks all but over.

Although, Jorge Sampaoli‘s men can still qualify for the next round, but their fate depends on the outcome of other teams in their group.

Croatia are top of Group D with six points from two games. They have already qualified. Argentina have one point from two games – earned from the draw against Iceland.

Debutants Iceland and Nigeria have one point and zero points resoectively but will play each other on Friday.

Iceland are yet to face Croatia as well.

sampaoli

Messi and co could go ahead if:

Scenario 1

1. Argentina must defeat Nigeria and expect Iceland to lose both their remaining games against Nigeria and Croatia.

Scenario 2

2. Iceland loses or draw against Nigeria, Croatia then defeats or draws against Iceland, and Argentina defeat Nigeria

Scenario 3

3. If Iceland do manage to win even one of their games, then Argentina must also win against Nigeria and make sure they finish up with a better goal difference (Argentina’s goal difference is currently -3).

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Ilkay Gundogan deserves chance to help spark Germany into life and more tactics v Sweden

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In line for a start? Gundogan.

Germany‘s World Cup hopes are firmly in the balance before Saturday’s must-win clash against Sweden (22:00).

Following their opening 1-0 defeat to Mexico in Group F last Sunday, defending champions Die Mannschaft have it all to do at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi.

Here, we look at the key tactical talking points ahead of the match.

Gundogan could prove to be Germany’s trump card

Joachim Low is expected to make a change in the midfield department.

Sami Khedira will likely be the main casualty after a lacklustre display against Mexico, with Toni Kroos’ greater powers of proficiency and technicality on the ball exempts him from getting cut.

Manchester City star Ilkay Gundogan would be a worthy beneficiary of that call, with the 27-year-old likely to bring more zip and pace to a midfield that was lacking in invention and profligacy moving the ball forward.

Gundogan enjoyed a season of rejuvenation at the Etihad Stadium, his first relatively injury-free campaign after a serious knee ligament injury, and arrives into this tournament with a spring in his step and no scars having not playing in the Mexico loss.

He has a modest record at international level, though injuries have restricted his progress. Four years ago, Gundogan didn’t feature in World Cup glory so will feel he has some making up to do.

In the spotlight: Gundogan.

Forsberg could prove to be a factor

The heir to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s throne, Emil Forsberg, struggled to stand out against Korea.

The RB Leipzig winger, 26, who is being tracked by Arsenal and Manchester United among others, is one man who has the quality at his feet – something, as a whole, this Sweden team don’t possess.

In the opener, he struggled to get into the game on the left-hand side and managed just one dribble. All of his four efforts on goal were off target, too.

He will certainly be hoping to improve on these statistics and raise his game against the Germans, although his pass completion (89.7 per cent) was higher than any one of his team-mates and highlighted his class and composure.

It does indeed speak volumes of the way Sweden look to get the ball to him at every opportunity and his link-up with left-back Ludwig Augustinsson will be crucial.

Germany’s right full-back Joshua Kimmich was ruthlessly exposed by the Mexicans and Forsberg can be the man to repeat the trick with skillful runs down the channel.

Sweden's midfielder Emil Forsberg (L) vies for the ball with South Korea's defender Lee Yong during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group F football match between Sweden and South Korea at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod on June 18, 2018. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Emil Forsberg has the ability to cause Germany problems.

Germany need a fast start

When you need a result, making your way fast out of the starting blocks can make a difference.

Against Mexico, they dominated the possession stakes (retaining 66 per cent of the ball) but were too slow in the implementation of their forward ideas.

Too often, that possession was among the back four and Kroos and Khedira laboured on the ball, and when they lost it, were well and truly hit on the counter-attack by Mexico.

If they are to turn the tables and press Sweden with direct running and powerful forward play, then Julian Draxler could be key to their hopes.

The Paris Saint-Germain winger had the most dribbles (five) in their opener and was a promising outlet. Germany will need to make sure he isn’t wasted.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 22: Joachim Loew, head coach of Germany at a morning run on Adler Beach Boulevard at the team Hotel Radisson Blu Paradise Resort & Spa a on June 22, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Spring in his step: Germany boss Joachim Loew in Sochi.

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