This year's Group E fixtures get underway with reigning champions Germany facing off against Mexico on June 17 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Germany are once again frontrunners to win the competition four years after their victory in Brazil with a strong squad helmed by the fresh and experienced likes of Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane, Toni Kroos and Timo Werner. That's not to say that they won't suffer from the "Champions' Curse", however – as previous World Cup winners have faced a not-so-appealing fate when attempting to defend their title.
South Korea and Sweden make up the rest of Group F in what is seen as a tough series of challenges, which also sees the latter team returning to their first World Cup in 12 years (though without Zlatan Ibrahimovic).
Goal will take a look at the rundown of the Group F fixtures ahead of the June start, as well as what to expect from each team and more.
World Cup 2018 - Group F Fixtures
|June 17||Germany vs Mexico||4pm UK / 11am US ET||0-1||Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow|
|June 17||Sweden vs South Korea||1pm UK / 8am US ET||1-0||Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod|
|June 22||South Korea vs Mexico||4pm UK / 11am US ET||Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don|
|June 22||Germany vs Sweden||7pm UK / 2pm US ET||Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi|
|June 27||South Korea vs Germany||3pm UK / 10am US ET||Kazan Arena, Kazan|
|June 27||Mexico vs Germany||3pm UK / 10am US ET||Central Stadium, Ekaterinburg|
Though Germany have a strong team – if not the strongest – heading into the World Cup, they might be plagued by what is known as the "Champions' Curse", if you're into believing that sort of thing. But when remembering the fate of recent World Cup winners when attempting to defend their title, it may be just pure coincidence or an actual curse.
After France won the 1998 World Cup on home soil, they failed to qualify for even the group stages in the 2002 tournament. When Italy won the 2006 World Cup in Germany, they subsequently failed to progress past the group stages in 2010. That edition's winners in Spain suffered from the curse in 2014 when they crashed out of the next tournament in Brazil at the hends of the Netherlands, who humiliated them 5-1. With their strong squad, however, Germany could very well break the "curse".
Mexico could be underdogs over South Korea and Sweden as well, appearing in their seventh consecutive World Cup final – though have never made it past the group stage. Javier Hernandez will be hopeful of an eventful summer following a disappointing campaign at the London Stadium with West Ham, and he needs just two more goals to become Mexico's all-time top-scorer at the World Cup finals.
Tottenham's Heung-Min Son is a notable standout player for South Korea, though the side struggled in the qualification stages and finished second in their group after Iran.
Though the Spurs star scored 12 goals this season for his club, he scored just the one in qualification – and his teammates will be hoping that he steps up to the plate. Ki Sung-yueng of Swansea and Lee Chung-yong of Crystal Palace are also some strong players representing South Korea.
Sweden, who are without the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic, will be able to call upon Leipzig's Emil Forsberg and Al Anin's Marcus Berg. Victor Lindelof has had an inconsistent and fairly tumultuous season with Manchester United, though will be expected to play a key part down the line.
World Cup 2018 - Group F Table Standings
World Cup 2018 - Group F Squads
Germany's 23-man squad: Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Kevin Trapp; Jerome Boateng, Matthias Ginter, Jonas Hector, Mats Hummels, Joshua Kimmich, Marvin Plattenhardt, Antonio Rudiger, Niklas Sule; Julian Brandt, Julian Draxler, Mario Gomez, Leon Goretzka, Ilkay Gundogan, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Sebastian Rudy, Timo Werner
Mexico's 23-man squad: Jesus Corona, Alfredo Talavera, Guillermo Ochoa; Hugo Ayala, Carlos Salcedo, Diego Reyes, Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Edson Alvarez; Rafael Marquez, Jonathan dos Santos, Marco Fabian, Giovani dos Santos, Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado; Raul Jimenez, Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez, Jesus Corona, Oribe Peralta, Javier Aquino, Hirving Lozano
Sweden's 23-man squad: Robin Olsen, Karl-Johan Johnsson, Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Mikael Lustig, Victor Lindelof, Andreas Granqvist, Martin Olsson, Ludwig Augustinsson, Filip Helander, Emil Krafth, Pontus Jansson, Sebastian Larsson, Albin Ekdal, Emil Forsberg, Gustav Svensson, Oscar Hiljemark, Viktor Claesson, Marcus Rohden, Jimmy Durmaz, Marcus Berg, John Guidetti, Ola Toivonen, Isaac Kiese Thelin
South Korea's 23-man squad: Kim Seunggyu, Kim Jinhyeon, Cho Hyeonwoo, Kim Younggwon, Jang Hyunsoo, Jeong Seunghyeon, Yun Yeongseon, Oh Bansuk, Kim Minwoo, Park Jooho, Hong Chul, Go Yohan, Lee Yong, Ki Sungyueng, Jeong Wooyoung, Ju Sejong, Koo Jacheol, Lee Jaesung, Lee Seungwoo, Moon Sunmin, Kim Shinwook, Son Heungmin, Hwang Heechan
The World Cup will start on June 14.