SWEDEN v SOUTH KOREA
Mon June 18, 1pm, live on ITV.
This is a fascinating game to preview with both countries seemingly in poor form in the run-up to the tournament. You would be mad to discount either of these two nations though because they have consistently punched above their weight in the World Cup over the years.
South Korea have qualified for every World Cup since 1986 which is a remarkable record and few will forget their incredible run to the semi-finals in 2002 when they were joint hosts. They are a country steeped in World Cup history and with players like Son from Spurs and Ki from Swansea in their team they are no minnows.
Sweden have finished in the top 4 of the World Cup no less four times in their history which is a remarkable feat for a relatively small country from Europe. This year they don't have any huge names like Larsson or Ibrahimovic but they have a strong squad that draws from players performing in lots of the top leagues in Europe. My favourite stat of the tournament is that Sweden are one of only two countries who have no players in their squad that play in their country's domestic top flight. Can you name the other one?
This match is one where both teams will be conscious that a win is essential if they want to progress. Germany and Mexico await in their other two fixtures so both sides may see this as their best chance of a win.
My concern for South Korea is their squad doesn't have the same depth as Sweden and I think the Swedes might just have the edge. It's hard to get away from their solid defensive performance against Italy or two legs where they were so well organised. A repeat of those performances will make them difficult to break down.
Neither team has been scoring a lot of goals of late but both are reasonably well organised and I can see the game being quite tight. Unfortunately it looks like the bookies agree with me there and under 2.5 goals is a miserly 8-15.
Sweden to win the match is possibly the value at better than even money in some places.
Sweden win (11-10, Betfair)
Emil Forsberg (17-2, Ladborkes, William Hill)