Sweden vs South Korea
Sweden qualified for World Cup after an impressive group stage and a final knockout phase against Italy. They have adapted to life without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and returned to the typical Swedish way of playing. Running capacity, hard work, and structured organization.
This isn't the prettiest but football is about gaining results and Sweden have done that. They have beaten Italy over two contests with a 1-0 aggregate score. Also beaten France at home in the qualifiers. However, Sweden didn't impress when the opponents were called Bulgaria or less fancy names. This is a typical Swedish-problem, to maintain the competitive instinct against the smaller nations.
Their pre-tournament results contain 1-1 against Estonia, and losses against Chile (1-2) and Romania (1-0). They faced Denmark twice, winning 1-0 and played a 0-0 draw. The 0-0 draw was also a result against Peru which concluded the Swedes preparations for the World Cup. The question after the friendlies is: Where is the Swedish offense?
The squad contains no surprises with Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen being the expected goal scorers. Wing attacker Emil Forsberg is the obvious star in the team. Defensively, center back Andreas Granqvist (captain of FC Krasnodar) is the glue to this World Cup journey. The Swedes are physical but lack speed and technique to threaten more.
They often sit deep in their defending positions. This means that they have a long way to the opponent's goal when being in possession. Midfielders prefer to calm things down and play the ball back to the defenders and keep the tempo low but precise.
South Korea finished second in their group of the Asian qualifiers with 15 points. Only Iran did it better with 22 points and undefeated. South Korea did score the most goals in the group but had defensive weaknesses.
The preparation for South Korea has been positive. They have scored in 13 straight matches after the qualification. They beat teams like Colombia, Japan, Honduras and picked up a draw against Serbia. Losses against Poland (3-2) and Northern Ireland (2-1) shows that this team usually finds the net but also concede regularly. The obvious star is Tottenham attacker, Heung Min Son. He has been very good in the pre-matches.
I believe it is a European mentality to underestimate teams outside of the European regions. We tend to think that just because a side isn't playing in the European qualifiers, they are by default weak. I sense that Sweden and Europe see themselves as too big favorites, and expect a few surprises in this World Cup.
The Swedish defense is very static with big tall players. But they will be challenged by the quickness of the South Korean attacking players. Those are superior in technique and pace in many positions, but not in organization. I see this being a very equal match with the fear of losing being stronger than the desire to win.
A draw is very likely in my book, but I have a slight lean towards South Korea. They have more creativity up front and actually score goals. Sweden is solid in defense, but their offensive qualities are at this stage not enough to gain three points from any side in my humble opinion. I will take South Korea not to lose this match with the +0.5 handicap.
Sweden vs South Korea prediction
South Korea +0.5 Asian handicap @ 1.85 with Bet365