Germany need to use experience in face of adversity and more talking points ahead of Sweden World Cup clash

Sport360's Stuart Appleby assesses the key talking points ahead of an all-important Group F contest

Stuart Appleby 2018/06/21

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 talking points ahead of the clash.

Can Germany put reports of dressing room disharmony to bed?

Senior figures in the Germany camp, Thomas Muller and team manger Oliver Bierhoff, have played down speculation that all is not well within the group.

You perhaps have to take their word for it given the country’s most recent exploits in international football but there is no doubt a lacklustre build-up to the World Cup and that opening loss has really turned up the heat and indeed pressure.

The high temperatures Germany will face in Sochi on Saturday should only serve to up that ante.

Low and his coaching team face a difficult task to galvanise a collection of big personalities. Given how quickly things can go off the rail in tournament play, the Germany boss will need to use all his experience and know-how to boost morale in the ranks.

But, to reassert Germany’s famed team unity isn’t just as easy as saying it and get this campaign back on track will boil down to several factors. Worryingly, the 2014 winners’ looked lethargic and devoid of structure, efficiency and control against a rampant Mexico side that had more pace, power and desire.

It is not necessarily as easy as flicking the switch and hoping everything comes together for this one. Ultimately, the likes of Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira have to move up a gear, sparking Mesut Ozil into life, Joshua Kimmich needs to improve defensively and Ilkay Gundogan deserves a chance in the middle of the park.

Low has decisions to make and will have had some harsh words to say to a dressing room lacking in confidence, feeling the pressure of their World Cup defence being on the line.

Decisions, decisions, decisions for Joachim Low.

More of the same from Sweden is required

There are no thrills or indeed spills about the Blue-Yellows.

Janne Andersson, a coach pragmatic enough in playing to his team’s limitations and maximising the strengths of Sweden which include work-rate, intensity and their ability to stick to a rigid structure and frustrate teams, worked superbly against Korea.

Sweden wore down their opening opponents with self discipline and protected Andreas Granqvist’s second-half penalty winner with aplomb, restricting the Koreans to precisely zero shots on target.

A win here would seal Sweden’s path through to round two and once again you would feel they would back themselves to shut-up shop and frustrate Germany, like Mexico did.

It is certainly time to seize the moment and pounce on the Germans’ venerability.

Their favoured approach of a high-press, boosted by the fact they are a team with legs and generally powerful in the air, will be important to shut off Germany’s strong spine and make life uncomfortable early on for Marco Reus, should the Borussia Dortmund man get the nod in an attacking midfield role.

Sweden’s rather standard but effective 4-4-2 system matches up pretty well against Germany’s 4-2-3-1, and although Low’s men obviously have more talent and still deserve, just about, to be classed as favourites here, Sweden should not be concerned about allowing their illustrious opponents more possession and the chance to play.

Finding the feet of wide men Emil Forsberg and Viktor Claesson will also prove crucial to ensure the Swedes have an out ball and break from anticipated territorial pressure.

A sea of Swede: Fans support their team against Korea.

A real balancing act for the Germans

Germany face a difficult equation to tip the scales in their favour with so much on the line.

It is crucial how well Low’s men respond to the experienced manager’s work on the training ground this week, with rumours the nation’s base in Vatutinki has resembled a boarding school and restricted the players’ freedom.

The 58-year-old is a man who sticks to his principles, is stubborn in his mannerisms and dislikes wholesale change. With Gundogan and Reus set to come in, that should be his lot when it comes to alterations and are obvious, if not moves of tactical ingenuity.

Germany’s high-press and adaptation of high full-backs cost them dearly against Mexico, as their midfield was ruthlessly overrun. That, in turn, proceeded to put pressure on a usually well-oiled backline, with Mats Hummels, in particular, struggling in possession and when runners were driving at him.

However, don’t expect Germany to change too much tactically and stick to the same principles that have served them so well over the years.

Under fire: 29-year-old Mats Hummels.

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