Nizhny Novgorod, June 17: South Korea will try to create an upset when they face higher-ranked Sweden in their 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F opening match at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium here on Monday.
South Korea, in their 10th World Cup, are certain underdogs in their group, where they are also paired with defending champions Germany and Latin American powerhouses Mexico, reports Yonhap news agency.
Neither history nor statistics are in South Korea’s favour when it comes to their meeting with Sweden.
South Korea, coached by Shin Tae-yong, are ranked No.57 in the latest FIFA rankings while Sweden sit at No.24.
South Korea have two draws and two losses from their four previous encounters with Sweden, although their last meeting was in 2005.
Probably the only statistic that South Korea can rely on is their opening match results in recent World Cups. Beginning in 2002, South Korea have not lost any of their first World Cup matches, collecting three wins and one draw.
Neither team had an impressive World Cup tune-up before landing in Russia. South Korea played to a scoreless draw with Bolivia and fell 0-2 to Senegal in their friendly matches in Austria. Sweden had 0-0 draws with Denmark and Peru in their World Cup warm-ups at home.
There has been an off-pitch battle between the two sides ahead of their Group F clash. Sweden claimed they’ve analysed all of South Korea’s closed door training in Austria while South Korea accused Sweden of playing the press to distract them.
Shin has yet to confirm whether he will use a back three or a back four against Sweden, whose main formation is 4-4-2. South Korea mostly used a 4-4-2 setup in their recent friendly matches.
But whether it’s a back three or a back four, South Korea kept a two-forward system with Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan playing up front. Son is arguably South Korea’s best player in recent years. The Tottenham Hotspur talisman has 21 goals in 67 caps.
If using 4-4-2, they’re likely to be flanked by two Lees — Hellas Verona’s Lee Seung-woo on the left and Lee Jae-sung on the right. IANS