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Germany in crisis, Neymar returns: 5 talking points from the latest World Cup warm-up action

4 Jun, 2018 14:17
Germany in crisis, Neymar returns: 5 talking points from the latest World Cup warm-up action
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Recent days have seen numerous Russia-bound teams continue their World Cup preparations, with the matches throwing up some fascinating talking points as we enter the final stretch before the tournament kicks off.

RT Sport looks at five key issues from the latest round of World Cup warm-up matches.

GERMANY IN CRISIS?

Germany suffered a 2-1 defeat in Austria on Saturday – their first loss against their southern neighbors in 32 years. The defeat also extended Germany’s winless run to five matches, which is their longest barren streak since 1987-88.

The game against Austria saw the return of captain Manuel Neuer in the German goal after more than six months out with a broken foot - but it was far from a happy comeback for the Bayern Munich ’keeper. After a delayed start due to heavy rain, Germany took the lead through Mesut Ozil in the 11th minute, only to conceded second-half goals to Martin Hinteregger and Alessandro Schopf.

There were also ugly scenes at the German training camp leading up to the game, with Antonio Rudiger and Joshua Kimmich reportedly having to be separated after they squared up to each other following a strong tackle from the Chelsea defender. 

The defending champions are facing headlines proclaiming a "crisis" in the camp as the team head into their final World Cup warm-up game against Saudi Arabia on Friday, and Joachim Low sensationally left winger Leroy Sane out of his final World Cup squad, which was announced on Monday - which will prompt big questions if the team falls short in Russia. 

They will be desperate for a win to take to Russia, where they face a potentially tricky group containing Mexico, Sweden and South Korea. 

NEYMAR BACK WITH A BANG

In contrast to the Germans, Brazil are heading into this summer’s World Cup with some major momentum, having eased past Croatia in a 2-0 friendly win at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium on Sunday.

The game saw the return of talisman Neymar after more than three months out with a foot injury, and the world’s most expensive player marked his comeback with a stunning solo goal as he fired a shot in off the crossbar to give Brazil the lead in the 69th minute. Roberto Firminho added a second late on to confirm the win for Brazil against a Croatia team containing big names Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.

The Brazilians have won 16 out their 20 games under manager Tite, drawing three and losing just once. With Neymar back and hitting the ground running, and the nightmare of four years ago seemingly exorcised, the Brazilians could be the team to beat in Russia. They face Austria on June 10 in their final warm-up game before the five-time champions head to the World Cup to play in a group containing Switzerland, Serbia, and Costa Rica. 

PERU DARK HORSES

As with their South American counterparts Brazil, Peru are also going into Russia 2018 on an excellent run of form. They swept aside Saudi Arabia 3-0 on Sunday night, in a game which saw captain Paolo Guerrero score a double as he returned to the team after his drugs ban was temporarily lifted, allowing him to play in Russia.

Peru are on an unbeaten running stretching 14 games, and which includes wins over Iceland, Croatia and Uruguay, and draws against Argentina and Colombia.

The nation is in the grip of World Cup fever as it prepares to make a return to football’s biggest stage for the first time in 36 years.

The Peruvians play Sweden in their last warm-up game on Saturday before heading to Russia, and will be a good bet to spring some surprises and enjoy a decent World Cup run, perhaps in a similar vein to Colombia last time round, who reached the quarter-finals in Brazil.

INJURY WOE FOR BELGIAN CAPTAIN KOMPANY

Belgium captain Vincent Kompany’s injury curse struck again on Saturday night when he was forced off  with a groin injury 10 minutes into the second half of the 0-0 draw against Portugal. 

The Manchester City defender was included in the nation’s final squad of 23 players announced on Monday, but the 32-year-old will face a race against time to be fit.

The Belgians are taking a stellar squad to Russia which on paper is as good as any at the tournament, but the ‘Golden Generation’ have so far struggled to turn their much-heralded tag into trophies. Were they to be deprived of their captain, that task would become even harder.

The Belgians play Egypt in their final World Cup warm-up game on Friday, before heading to Russia to face a group containing Panama, Tunisia and England.

FRANCE FRONTLINE SHOWS FLAIR

France showed their attacking threat in a 3-1 win against Italy on Friday night, with Samuel Umtiti, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele all on the scoresheet.

It was largely a comfortable night for the French in Paris, and they showed the attacking menace they will take to Russia in the form of Greizmann, Dembele and teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe – all of whom linked up well against the Italians.

There were some areas of concern for coach Didier Deschamps, after midfielder Paul Pogba was booed by his own fans for a wayward strike, and Hugo Lloris' error gifted Leonardo Bonucci the Italians’ goal. 

But while the French might be vulnerable at the back, they should be one of the most exciting teams going forward in Russia and will be among the favorites to lift the title for a second time.    

The French play their final warm-up game against the USA on Saturday, before heading to Russia to face a group containing Peru, Denmark and Australia.