South Korea v Germany Wednesday 27 June, 15:00 Live on BBC 1
South Korea reaching for World Cup lifeline
After narrow defeats to Mexico and Sweden, South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong summed up his team's situation neatly, describing them as "a drowning man clutching at a straw." The late heroics of Germany's Toni Kroos against Sweden spared Shin's side the ignominy of elimination with a game to spare, but only a win on Wednesday afternoon and a victory for Mexico against Sweden gives them any chance of progress.
Although South Korea have been aggressive in the tackle and willing to cover plenty of ground, they have really struggled to develop any attacking momentum. A stunning late strike from a largely isolated Son Heung-min against Mexico has been the sum total of their offensive efforts so far, and they didn't even manage a shot on target in their Group F opener against Sweden.
Opta tell us that South Korea have now lost their last four matches at World Cup finals, equalling their worst ever sequence. It's also worth noting that they have lost their last two World Cup games against Germany, a group game in 1994 and the semi-final in 2002.
South Korea's cause won't be helped by the loss of skipper Ki Sung-yeung to injury, and full-back Park Joo-ho is still sidelined. Shin has to find a way to get Tottenham forward Son more support in attack - he had eight shots against Mexico, and carried the entire offensive burden on his shoulders.
World champions confident of turning the corner
Germany held its breath, and Toni Kroos delivered. The Real Madrid maestro's inch-perfect strike put Die Mannschaft's World Cup destiny back in its own hands, securing a 2-1 success against Sweden. Germany now know that a victory against South Korea by two goals or more would definitely see them qualify, although a worse result could still see them make it depending what happens between Sweden and group leaders Mexico.
Germany were far from perfect against the Swedes. Although Sami Khedira justifiably made way for Sebastian Rudy (who then broke his nose and was replaced by Ilkay Gundogan), there were still gaps in midfield, and it was too easy to get at the German defence. Jerome Boateng had a nightmare performance, culminating in his late dismissal for picking up a second booking. The service to lone striker Timo Werner still wasn't good enough, with the apparent obsession with pumping in crosses refusing to subside.
Coach Joachim Loew made a big statement by dropping Mesut Ozil and Khedira for the Sweden game, and he is expected to make further changes. Mats Hummels could return to partner Antonio Rudiger in central defence after recovering from a neck injury, with Boateng suspended. Julian Brandt has impressed in two cameos, and is pushing hard to replace Julian Draxler in the front four. If Loew wants power instead of speed in attack, he could hand Mario Gomez his first start of this World Cup.
Germany won't leave anything to chance
My belief that Germany can win this tournament hasn't wavered, despite their brush with disaster. They still have an astute coach and a bunch of very talented players who showed their fighting spirit against Sweden, and they should overcome limited, toothless opposition here.
Germany are priced at a rather prohibitive 1.20 for the win, but you can boost that price to 1.88 if you back them -2.0 on the Asian Handicap. If they win by two goals, your stake is returned, but a bigger victory sees you win.
Alternatively, if you think South Korea will struggle again in attack, you could back Germany to win to nil at 10/11 on the Sportsbook.
Goals bet depends on South Korean spirit
An early goal for Germany could break South Korean hearts, and it will be fascinating to see how they approach this game. Shin knows he has to go for it at some stage, but his team hasn't been able to create clear-cut opportunities on a consistent basis.
Over 2.5 Goals is priced at 1.57 here, which is a bit too short of be of interest. If you fancy South Korea and Son to cause Germany the kind of problems that Mexico and Sweden did, you might be tempted to back Both Teams To Score at a hefty 2.24.
Germany to make a statement
It's admittedly hard to look at Germany's performances against Mexico and Sweden and make a case for a resounding win here, but I was impressed by their second-half display against the Swedes. They rediscovered their pace and intensity in attack, as Sweden found themselves hemmed in. Germany dug deep, Marco Reus sparkled (a goal and an assist), and several of their players have remarked that Kroos' last-gasp winner could prove to be the turning point of their campaign.
South Korea have been very disappointing, they are without a key player in Ki, and a dispiriting early goal could see them overwhelmed here.
Key Opta Stats for South Korea v Germany
The most recent World Cup meeting between South Korea and Germany was at the Koreans’ home World Cup in 2002, with the hosts losing 1-0 in the semi-finals. Another 1-0 win for Germany is9.60.
South Korea’s only victory against Germany came in a friendly match in 2004 (3-1). They are19.00 to pull off a huge shock.
Germany have won all five of their World Cup games against Asian opponents, scoring 19 goals in total and keeping clean sheets in each of their last three. They are1.91 to win to nil.
South Korea have lost their last four World Cup matches in a row, their joint-worst run – they also lost four in a row between 1986 and 1990. Germany are1.67 to win half-time/full-time.
Germany’s victory over Sweden was their first at the World Cup when conceding first since 1998, a 2-1 win over Mexico. The South Korea half-time/Germany full-time double is23.00.
Son Heung-Min attempted eight shots in South Korea’s defeat to Mexico – three more than South Korea managed in their opening match against Sweden (five shots). Son is5.00 to score.
Germany have won 15 of their last 17 competitive matches (D1 L1) since losing 2-0 to France at Euro 2016. The draw half-time/Germany full-time double result is4.00.
South Korea have conceded a penalty goal in each of their last two World Cup matches – they had conceded just one goal via a penalty in their previous 29 World Cup games combined. The odds of there being a penalty in the match are2.50.
Toni Kroos’ goal against Sweden was the latest goal scored by Germany in normal time at the World Cup (94:42) – Kroos has been involved in five goals in his last five World Cup games (3 goals, 2 assists). Kroos is5.00 to score again.
Back Germany to win both halves at 11/8 on the Sportsbook