Sweden v South Korea: Ekdal unflustered by media pressure
Albin Ekdal believes Sweden will not be affected by the pressure of taking part in their first World Cup since 2006 ahead of their Group F clash with South Korea.
Sweden overcame Italy in a play-off to secure their place in Russia and get their campaign started in Nizhny Novgorod on Monday.
Ekdal is confident Janne Andersson's side - without the retired Zlatan Ibrahimovic - have the quality and experience to progress from a group that also includes Mexico and world champions Germany.
"There is more attention. There is a lot of advertising. More media focus," Ekdal told Swedish publication Expressen.
"Look at social media. I think it's horrendous. But I do not want to believe it affects us too much. I myself do not read too much.
"It's the World Cup, it's supposed to be like this, it's great that we've got there. There are millions of Swedes who follow us. It's good, it helps the whole country to get involved."
20 - Son Heung-min, who scored his 20th Premier League goal against Crystal Palace in November, became the highest Asian goalscorer in the competition’s history, surpassing Park Ji-sung (19). Shoulders. #OptaWCPreview pic.twitter.com/9wRCo5iqAP— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 11 June 2018
South Korea come into the tournament on a dreadful run, having claimed just one victory from their previous six friendlies.
Tottenham winger Son Heung-min presents their biggest threat, although defender Jang Hyun-soo suggests South Korea's greatest danger could come from free-kicks and corners.
"I think set-pieces will be our strength," said Jang.
"We've really prepared a lot, and the players mostly talk about football and practice even in our free time.
"We're not trying new things but focusing on the plays that we've been preparing."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sweden - Emil Forsberg
Having shone with eight goals in his debut Bundesliga season with RB Leipzig, the playmaker struggled to recapture that form last term. The 27-year-old possesses real quality, though, with a fine range of passing and superb set-piece ability, while his versatility will be useful.
South Korea - Son Heung-min
A vital cog in Mauricio Pochettino's exciting Tottenham side, the winger's pace and guile is a huge asset for his country. The leading Asian goalscorer in Premier League history, the 25-year-old will have to be on top form if South Korea are to progress from Group F.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- Sweden are unbeaten in their four previous head-to-heads against South Korea (W2 D2). It’s their first encounter at the World Cup.
- Since finishing as runners-up on home soil in 1958, Sweden have progressed past the second round of the World Cup only once, it was in 1994 when they finished third.
- South Korea have qualified for the World Cup for the 10th time, more than any other Asian team. They haven’t missed an edition of the finals since 1986.
- South Korea have won only one of their last nine World Cup games (D3 L5) - it was in their opening match of the 2010 edition against Greece (2-0). That win is also their only clean sheet in their last 12 matches in the competition.