Manager: Shin Tae-yong
MVP:Son Heung-min (Spurs)
Best WC Result Fourth place, 2002
It’s easy to forget that South Korea were just a game from the final in 2002 as co-hosts, denied only by a narrow defeat to Germany. You will get exceptionally long odds on the same happening in Russia— particularly if the refereeing decisions in Korea’s games are less, ahem, ‘fortunate’ this time—but they are by no means without a prayer in Group F. They will be hoping Son Heung-Min’s phenomenal season for Tottenham Hotspur translates into onto the World Cup stage if they are to progress.
Manager: Juan Carlos Osorio
MVP: Jonathan dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
Best WC Result: Quarter-Finals, 1970, 1986
Mexico arrive in Russia on a run of six straight appearances in the knockout rounds—although on none of those occasions were they able to get past the round of 16. Legendary midfielder and captain Andrés Guardado may well make his last international appearance at this year’s tournament, along with 39-year-old Rafael Márquez, who appears in his fifth World Cup. Supported by Galaxy stars the dos Santos brothers, Giovani and Jonathan, and with Javier Hernández and Carlos Vela leading the line, there’s plenty of firepower to worry all of Mexico’s Group F rivals.
5812 S Santa Fe Ave
Huntington Park, California 90058
Opening in 2016, with varied clientele and a great atmosphere, Angie Martinez’s bar Novacane has become a popular haunt for locals. Black, white, Latino, LGBT, men, women, they all flock to the spot, with its female-only staff policy, outstanding micheladas (replete with delicious tamarind sticks), and plenty of televisions around the space, the bar is often packed.
“We get a lot of women in here,” says Angie. “It’s a nice inclusive place. It’s the hood, but it’s a safe, chill vibe.” Aiming to mix Downtown feel with local prices, the bar’s menu mixes classic Mexican dishes with traditional mixed-drink staples. “We get a lot of regulars,” she adds, mixing us a new drink called Addiction. “They always ask me which team I’m supporting but, truth is, I don’t even really like sports. I just put it on ‘cos people like it. I always tell them I support whichever team they’re watching.” She laughs, handing us our cocktail. “I must support like fifty teams by now…”
Manager: Joachim Löw
MVP: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)
Best WC Result: Champions, 1954, 1974, 1990, 2014
Here they are. Die Mannschaft. The Team. The World Cup holders. Perennial favorites for silverware, world number one and masters of the penalty kick. Germany have made it at least to the semi-finals at the last four World Cups and, in their current form, it would be a major shock to not see them there again. There’s outstanding quality all over the field for Joachim Löw to call upon: from Bayern Munich’s Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels at the back and Real’s irresistibly classy Toni Kroos linking them to Leroy Sané [Ed. Note: Sane did not make Germany’s 23-man squad], Mesut Özil, and Thomas Müller further forward. Even if Manuel Neuer—regarded by many as the best ‘keeper in the world—doesn’t make it after his lengthy injury absence, they’ll have Barça’s impressive Marc-André ter Stegen to call on… A potential quarter-final clash with old rivals England is one to look out for, too.
206 N Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90004
A German pub in the heart of Koreatown? With Korean-German fusion food and loads of beer and a bunch of screens on which to watch the soccer? Uh… yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.
Manager: Janne Andersson
MVP: Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig)
Best WC Result: Runners-up, 1958
The biggest story surrounding Sweden’s appearance in Russia is a player who will not even make the squad—the Galaxy’s very own Zlatan Ibrahimović. The record goal scorer retired from international duty in 2016 and hints of a spectacular comeback for these finals were quashed just before the tournament. Shame. Without him, Sweden will rely on RB Leipzig winger Emil Forsberg and Manchester United center back Victor Lindelöf to lead them on, as they look to make up for the disappointment of missing out on the last two World Cups.
12400 Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066
A tight little bar with a gold-leaf sign, rock classics on the speakers, and more superb Scandi alcohol on the shelves than you can shake a bleary finger at. Packed for Sweden matches, the food menu is full of Swedish (and Turkish) delights and the outspoken owner, Magnus, is probably the most handsome man we’ve ever met. “You go tell Zlatan,” he says, “that the king of Sweden is right here.” We’ll leave that one to you, dude.