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Eyeing pre-quarters berth, holders Germany aim to eliminate S. Korea



Kazan, June 26: Defending champions Germany will go for the kill against South Korea to enter the FIFA World Cup pre-quarterfinals when they face-off in their final Group F contest at the Kazan Arena here on Wednesday.

Germany have three points from two games, while South Korea are currently last in Group F with two losses, but they still have a chance to advance to the Round of 16. If South Korea beat Germany and Sweden (three points) lose to Mexico (six points), then the three teams, excluding Mexico would be tied at one win and two losses, meaning the second and last position to qualify from the group will be down to goal difference, goal scored, head-to-head record and then fair play rules.

Since FIFA has operated the World Cup with 32 teams, only Chile have advanced to the round of 16 after earning three points in the group stage. At the 1998 World Cup in France, Chile had three points from three draws and finished as the runners-up in Group B, reports Yonhap news agency.

However, no team has passed the group stage after losing its first two matches at a World Cup with 32 nations.

Even at the 2018 World Cup, those with two losses have all been denied entry to the knockout stage regardless of the last matches in their respective groups, with South Korea looking to become the only exception.

Chances, however, appear to be very slim. Germany, four-time World Cup winners, are the top-ranked team in the world, while South Korea sit at only No.57 in the latest FIFA rankings.

Germany lost their opener to Mexico but they kept their chances alive by a Toni Kroos' last-minute winner against Sweden. It could be a turning point for the reigning champions and that all their problems in build up to the World Cup and against Mexico (and the previous 94 minutes against Sweden) were swept away by that magnificent free kick.

If that is the case, expect the Germans to hit top gear against a South Korean side that needs a miracle to qualify.

South Korea will rely on the attacking prowess of Son Heung-min, who notched up the team's first goal in the tournament against Mexico on Saturday. Son is one of the players who is familiar with the Germans after having stints with German clubs Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg before signing with London-based Tottenham Hotspur.

South Korea are likely to stick to their familiar 4-4-2 and try to bank on their counter-attacks using quick attackers like Son and Hwang Hee-chan.

The question, however, will be whether South Korea can feed attackers with accurate passes and make quick transitions from defence to offence.

South Korea will likely miss their captain and midfield control tower Ki Sung-yueng after he sustained a left calf injury during the match against Mexico. Ki's absence means South Korea will have to form a new combination in the central midfield.

One possibility is starting Koo Ja-cheol, who is also familiar with German football after playing for clubs like FC Augsburg, Mainz and Wolfsburg. Jung Woo-young and Ju Se-jong are also central midfielders who can feature in the match.

South Korea should have learned they should be more careful when defending in the box as they gave up opening goals to Sweden and Mexico on penalty kicks.

Germany are known for their star-studded squad featuring Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos, but certain players will not feature against South Korea. Ozil was benched for the match against Sweden and it will be interesting whether Joachim Loew picks him this time.

Germany will be without experienced centre-back Jerome Boateng, who was sent off during the match against Sweden. His partner Mats Hummels, however, has reportedly recovered from a neck injury and is looking to compete in the match. Boateng's absence is likely to be filled by Antonio Rudiger or Niklas Sule.

Sebastian Rudy is also likely to miss the match after he suffered a broken nose from taking a stray cleat to the face from Sweden's Ola Toivonen on Saturday. Germany, however, can easily replace the Bayern Munich midfielder with players like Ilkay Gundogan, Sami Khedira or Leon Goretzka.

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