Weblog: The football punter

Germany can bounce back from opening shock

World Cup Group F
ITV, 7pm Saturday

Germany didn't play anything like champions when losing 1-0 to Mexico last Sunday, but they can breathe life into their World Cup campaign by beating Sweden in Sochi.

The pressure is on the Germans, who are one bad performance away from following in the footsteps of Spain and becoming the second successive holders to be eliminated at the group stage.

There were similarities between Spain's opening performance at Brazil 2014 (a 5-1 loss to Holland) and Germany's defeat to Mexico.

Spain played like a team who had forgotten how to defend and Germany played with misplaced confidence against Mexico – affording too little respect to opponents with the weapons to cause them damage on the counter-attack.

Germany could have lost by a greater margin and it is imperative that Joachim Low gets a positive response from his players.

Sections of the German media are baying for team changes with Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira among the players singled out for criticism.

Low has been measured with his comments since the Mexico loss but has some excellent options in reserve including Marco Reus, who could be handed his first start of the tournament.

Four years ago Spain had the difficulty of starting their World Cup defence with tough games against Holland and Chile, but Germany have a much easier task in their second match.

Sweden fully deserved their 1-0 victory over South Korea on Monday after dominating the match and winning the shot count 15 to five.

And they are bolstered in defence with Manchester United centre-back Victor Lindelof set to return from illness.

However, they still look ill-equipped to cope with a Germany team geared up to show that they can still be force over the next few weeks.

The Germans were the joint-top scorers in European qualifying with 43 goals and possess players who are well-versed at performing in high-stakes matches for club and country.

It would help if some of their younger generation could come to the fore and one of the bright aspects against Mexico was a positive substitute appearance from winger Julian Brandt.

The Leverkusen man could get plenty more opportunities as the tournament progresses but the old guard, including Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller, will out to prove their worth against Sweden.

A more intense, focused performance could produce a flurry of German goals but their defensive problems are more difficult to resolve and may be set to continue.

Germany have kept just one clean sheet in their last nine games (the 0-0 draw with England at Wembley) and there is scope for a Swedish consolation strike in Sochi, where there is potential for goals at both ends.

Germany win & both teams to score

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Match in Focus


Ireland v N Ireland

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Ireland have two clean sheets in nine home games
Expert verdict
This will be a friendly in name only and looks set to conjure up goals in the first Irish derby since 2011. Both sides are out of form and bottom of their Nations League groups but will be motivated to perform under the lights of the Aviva Stadium. The return of Kyle Lafferty should be a big boost for the visitors.