After the opening two games of Group F, Mexico surprisingly find themselves in top spot, needing just a draw with Sweden to ensure they go through in first place ahead of Germany. Following up a victory over the holders with a 2-1 win against South Korea, El Tri will fancy their chances of consolidating maximum World Cup group points when they take on Sweden at the Central Stadium in Yekaterinburg on Wednesday afternoon.
Mexico have never progressed to the last 16 with a perfect record, but have every chance of doing so here against an opponent who also beat Korea but suffered a heartbreaking last minute defeat to Germany in their previous outing.
How that defeat – courtesy of Toni Kroos’ stunning free kick – will be hugely significant here, even as they know a 2-0 triumph against Mexico would see them guarantee themselves a place in the knockout stages.
“Directly after the match it’s a very depressed mood in the locker room, you break down,” Marcus Berg told told reporters after the Germany clash. “But we have it in our own hands and that’s something we are extremely happy about. We will do everything against Mexico and we have an incredible spirit in the team. It’s going to be extremely difficult to stop us from advancing out of the group.”
Prior to the start of the World Cup, Mexico won just once in four friendly outings, while Sweden recorded two draws and two defeats in their own warm up games. It might also be worth noting that, while the latter began their record against CONCACAF opposition at the FIFA World Cup with an 8-0 against Cuba in the quarter-final of the 1938 World Cup, they have not won against North or Central American opposition since they hosted the tournament back in 1958.
Their most recent encounter saw a 2006 draw with Trinidad and Tobago, but they have not conceded a goal in their last four meetings with Mexico who have recorded two draws and two wins in their last five games vs Sweden. That is almost certain to continue here and given Mexico’s form thus far in Russia, they are clearly the most likely winners and Bet365 has them at odds of 7/5 to win the game outright.
Furthermore, with El Tri having burst into form and Sweden having suffered that huge blow to their confidence against Germany, it may also be worth considering having a bet on over 2.5 goals overall which the same bookmaker is offering at odds of 6/5.
A major problem for Sweden has been their lack of an out-and-out goal scorer beyond Marcus Berg, and the former PSV man has suffered a recent international drought.
The 31-year-old has not found the back of the net since October 2017 and he has very little support from his team-mates on that front. Indeed, Ola Toivonen – the goalscorer against Germany – had a poor goalscoring record at club level last season too, failing to score a single league goal for French side Toulouse in 2017/18.
There have been no such issues for Mexico, Hirving Lozano now having a goal and an assist, while Javier Hernandez now scored 50 times for his country and needs just one more in Russia to break the record for Mexican World Cup goals too.
As Sweden need to win and their opponents can be content with a point, that plays perfectly into the counter attacking style of El Tri, and surely makes West Ham’s “Chicharito” an ideal candidate to break the deadlock.
The pacey Hernandez is available at odds of 6/1 to open the scoring with 888sport, or an extremely tempting 27/10 to net at any time, both bets that are definitely worth considering given his form and the situation.
For those seeking an interesting angle in this match, perhaps it is well worth noting that going into Tuesday’s games, Marcus Berg has committed more fouls (7) than any player yet to be booked at the World Cup.
As a result, Bet365's offer of 10/3 on the striker being booked at any point against Mexico looks like very good value and is certainly worthy of consideration as kick off time in Yekaterinburg approaches.