Mexico vs Sweden (27 June, 2018 3:00pm)
This game is going to be frenetic, Mexico aren’t totally safe yet, if Germany wins by fine margins and they lose even by one goal, they could be in serious trouble, hence the need for them to not attempt to take their feet off the pedal yet, you don’t beat Germany and then fail to qualify, it’s not just unacceptable but it would ruin the script of a beautiful campaign. Sweden beat South Korea in their group opener by one Andreas Granqvist spot kick midway into the second half, a result that put them in good stead to qualify, few days later they played Germany and took the lead in the first half only to be pegged back at the start of second half, a point would have been heroic for them until Toni Kroos happened, the late free kick didn’t only shatter the Swedes on the pitch, but it broke the hearts of an entire nation even from distance, the loss means they have to win here by very strong margin to stand a chance of qualifying. Man for man, give it to the Mexicans, the late goal they conceded to South Korea means they have to take this fixture seriously, they would be looking at whatever happens in group E as avoiding Brazil would also be on their cards, but for a team like Sweden, they won’t care, qualifying is key.
Verdict: Mexico to win or draw
South Korea vs Germany (27 June, 2018 3:00pm)
South Korea are done at this world cup, they head home after this match as they lost their opening two games, the loss to Sweden started their misfortune, they were so close to getting a point at least but just couldn’t click early, they again left it late against Mexico, scoring at the death when it means nothing, now they have pride to play for, without pressure they will look to spoil the party for the defending champions. Germany were stunned in the opener, losing to a spirited Mexico side off a fierce Hirvin Lozano strike. The second game was even more difficult, after equalizing at the start of second half, the Swedes kept it tight and were even gifted chances on the break that could have further dented the hopes of the Germans but managed to hold on, basically through the heroics of skipper Manuel Neuer, as the clock winds down, with the last action of the day, Tony Kroos stood up and got counted, his intelligent free kick sailed past Ruben Olsen in goal and the numerical advantage counted for nothing with Jerome Boateng sent off for the defending champions. Germany just need to win here by at least two goals to stand a chance of qualifying without really needing help from anyone, they won’t care about what is happening at the other end if they do their own job, they could qualify with a point here if Mexico beats or plays out a goalless draw with Sweden but that would be them taking chances.
Verdict: Germany to win
Serbia vs Brazil (27 June, 2018 7:00pm)
Serbia can only qualify without needing help from elsewhere if they beat Brazil, but if they draw, they will need already ousted Costa Rica to do them huge favours by beating Switzerland by more than one goal for them to stand a chance of qualifying, it’s not impossible, Peru beat Australia against the odds. Brazil have failed to live up to the hype built around them by fans and neutrals, a part of them must shrink a bit last night when Marcos Rojo blasted home to hand Argentina another few days in Russia, they would have wanted their arch rivals to crash out and get one over them; Brazil are in strong positions to advance, the late goals that gave them maximum points against Costa Rica mean they only need one point here but would they want to finish second? It’s a bit dicey here, Germany are best expected to finish second in group F behind Mexico and could face Brazil in a repeat of last mundial’s semi final clash in Rio. All eyes had been on Neymar before the world cup, but it is Barcelona play-maker, Philippe Coutinho that has been shouldering the Brazilian team with stellar performances and beautiful goals to match. Give or take, Brazil would look to qualify, but are they afraid of Germany? Serbia wouldn’t mind advancing to meet anyone, they are not in the position to pick opponents, and they will trouble the Brazilians.
Verdict: Serbia to win or draw
Switzerland vs Costa Rica (27 June, 2018 7:00pm)
Switzerland did the bulk of the job in their opening two games, and except something sensationally bizarre happens in this game, Switzerland should be preparing for life in the second round. Switzerland left it late but they were clinical at the end against Serbia, the 2:1 win means they would be through with a point, but with top spot in their sights, that’s if they’re not looking at the situations in group F where they could play Germany depending on what happens there, Costa Rica should be beaten here. Costa Rica are in this fixture for pride, they laboured hard against Serbia but were beaten by one moment of magic by Aleksander Kolarov and bottled it all at the end against Brazil after holding the favourites to a goalless draw for most of the game; Costa Rica will play this game without pressure, introduce fresh boys, test fresh legs and give opportunity to the untested lads, they have nothing to lose as the result has zero bearing on their campaign, they’re out already. Look out for Xerdan Shaqiri and Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka, the two were instrumental in the gritty win over hardworking Serbia, the tactics would stay the same, soak up pressure from the energetic Costa Ricans and hit them on the break with Shaqiri set to be the outlet, Breel Embolo is expected to play parts in this too.
Verdict: Switzerland to win
Strictly the writer’s opinion