World cup winners Germany and Asian Cup champions Australia conclude the first round of FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 matches when they meet in Sochi’s Fisht Stadium on Monday evening.
Chile currently top Group B after their 2-0 win over Cameroon in Moscow on Sunday, and both teams lining up in Sochi will been to keep pace with the South American champions.
Germany go into the game as strong favorites, even though head coach Joachim Low has selected the youngest squad at the tournament, with an average age of just 24 years and four months.
More established stars such as Mesut Ozil, Tomi Kroos, Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer remain at home, either rested or injured, with Low opting to give the country’s emerging talent a chance to sample big tournament football.
PSG winger Julian Draxler will captain the team, and is one of the more experienced players in the squad despite being just 23.
Right-back Joshua Kimmich, 22, will also have a chance to get some game time after a frustrating season of limited opportunities at club side Bayern Munich.
Kimmich is among a new crop of German stars that also includes RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner, who scored 21 goals in the Bundesliga last season, and 21-year-old Bayer Leverkusen playmaker Julian Brandt, who will add to his seven caps in Russia.
There’s also 1899 Hoffenheim striker Sandro Wagner, who at 29 is one of the senior members of the team, but is only just getting a run in the national set-up. His hat-trick against San Marino in Germany’s last game before they head to Russia signaled his intent.
Victory in Russia would also fill a gap in Die Mannschaft’s CV. Russia is their third appearance at the Tournament of Champions – they went out at the group stage in Mexico in 1999, although managed to claim third place as hosts in 2005, thanks to a 4-3 win over Mexico in their playoff.
AFC Asian Cup winners Australia are making their fourth appearance at the Confederations Cup.
They reached the final in 1997 – going down 6-0 against a Ronaldo and Romario-inspired Brazil in the final – and came third in 2001.
While head coach Ange Postecoglou suffered injury blows ahead of the tournament when captain Mile Jedinak and defender Bradley Smith were ruled out through injury, he can still call on experienced names in the form of goalkeeper Maty Ryan, who plays his club football at Valencia in Spain, defender Trent Sainsbury, who’s at Inter Milan, and evergreen striker Tim Cahill – who at 37 remains committed to the Socceroos’ cause.
Australia boss Postecoglou said before the game he was not planning to alter the team’s possession-based approach, despite the German threat.
The pair drew 2-2 in a friendly the last time they met in Germany in 2015, with a late Lukas Podolski header saving the home team’s blushes. Prior to that, though, the Socceroos shocked Die Mannschaft in 2011, recording a 2-1 win in Moenchengladbach.