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World Cup 2018 Russia

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Group F: Ibrahimovic-less Sweden take on South Korea

Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates scoring their first goal. REUTERS/Matthew Childs

Sweden and South Korea play on Monday in Nizhny Novgorod with a chance to increase the pressure on the defending champions Germany.

Victory for either side by more than one goal will take them to the top of Group F following Mexico’s surprise win over Germany on Sunday night in Moscow.

Hirving Lozano was the Mexican hero. But theirs wasn’t a fluke early goal and doughty defending. They were a constant menace throughout the 90 minutes – a modus operandi hailed by their coach Juan Carlos Osorio.

“For the players, the phrase was to play for the love of winning and not the fear of losing,” he said.  “And that is exactly what they did. They played with real bravery.”

Their spoils, should they overcome South Korea in Rostov on 23 June, will be the last 16 for the seventh consecutive tournament and another tilt at the last eight for the first time since 1986.

The interest for Sweden – playing in their first tournament since 2006 - will be to see how the squad fares without Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He was their talisman and main striker with a record 62 goals until his retirement in 2016. There was talk about an Ibrahimovic return for the Russia World Cup but coach Janne Andersson has decided to look to the future.

If they pick up the points against South Korea and then Germany on Saturday in Sochi, it could be more glorious than expected.