Mesut Ozil Marco Reus Julian Draxler Germany
Marco Reus (C) is set to replace Julian Draxler (R), while Mesut Ozil is expected to keep his place in the starting XI for GermanyAlexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Germany could not have asked for a more disastrous start to their title defence than that performance against Mexico in their opening match of the Fifa World Cup 2018. Now, the onus is on the world champions to show, well, the world, what they are made of when they play Sweden in a must-win Group F encounter in Sochi.

Nothing worked for Germany in that opening encounter, with Mexico reading their game plan to a T and executing their own to perfection. Well, maybe not quite perfection, because had it been perfect, Germany would have lost 3-0 or 4-0, like they, frankly, deserved to.

Joachim Low, expectedly, faced a lot of criticism after that defeat, with Germany's one-dimensional attack and leaky defence causing a lot of alarm.

It is unlikely that Germany will change the way they play – after all, it is that very style that won them the World Cup four years ago – but a few tweaks here or there might not be such a bad idea.

All that won't matter, though, if Germany do not come together as a team, with various reports suggesting there is some friction in the group. Apparently, the players have been divided into two groups, with neither seeing eye to eye. Now, if Low cannot sort that out, no tactical changes or personnel ones will matter.

Team news:


The one thing Low can control is the starting XI he picks, and the manager is expected to make quite a few changes to his line-up. Some of them enforced, others a reaction to that defeat to Mexico.

Key centre-back Mats Hummels, who complained about how his team-mates were not ready to do the dirty work in the opening match, has been ruled out with a neck injury. His club team-mate Niklas Sule is set to take his place in the side, although Antonio Rudiger is also an option.

Mats Hummels Germany
Mats Hummels will miss the crucial game against SwedenAlexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Low is also set to change his left-back, this time not injury enforced, with Jonas Hector set to come in for Marvin Plattenhardt.

Further upfield, Sami Khedira's place in the starting XI is in danger after forgetting his defensive duties. Ilkay Gundogan is in contention to replace him to play alongside Toni Kroos.

Mesut Ozil, like he always does, no matter how well or badly he plays, was also one to cop plenty of criticism, but the Arsenal playmaker could keep his place in the playing XI, with Julian Draxler, who was highly ineffective, expected to make way for the more dynamic Marco Reus.

Timo Werner might be one of the most talented forwards in Europe at the moment, but the RB Leipzig man struggled against Mexico, and Low could go with more experience and a physical presence in the shape of Mario Gomez.

Victor Lindelof Sweden
Victor Lindelof is a welcome return for SwedenJonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images


Victor Lindelof was a late exclusion due to injury in Sweden's opening game – a 1-0 win over South Korea – but the Manchester United defender is expected to make a return to the starting XI in place of Pontus Jansson.

Expected starting XI:

Germany: Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Jerome Boateng, Antonio Rudiger, Jonas Hector; Sebastian Rudy, Toni Kroos; Thomas Muller, Julian Draxler, Marco Reus; Mario Gomez.

Sweden: Robin Olsen; Mikael Lustig, Viktor Lindelof, Andreas Granqvist, Ludwig Augustinsson; Viktor Claesson, Sebastian Larsson, Albin Ekdal, Emil Forsberg; Marcus Berg, Ola Toivonen.