Reigning champions Germany arrived in Russia on Tuesday to join the World Cup party as Real Madrid announced Spain coach Julen Lopetegui will replace Zinedine Zidane after the tournament.

Gareth Southgate’s inexperienced England team also touched down as excitement mounts ahead of Thursday’s opening fixture in Moscow between the host nation and Saudi Arabia.

Germany, aiming to join Brazil as five-time winners of the World Cup, landed near Moscow ahead of their first match against Mexico on Sunday.

The Germans are among a group of favourites alongside Spain, France and Brazil but there are lingering questions over their form.

Joachim Loew’s side went five games without a win before labouring to a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia in their final warm-up and first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has hardly played since September.

But the Germans have made at least the semi-finals in each of the past four World Cups and have a habit of finding form when they need it most.

Timo Werner
Timo Werner
The defending champions also play Sweden and South Korea.

Loew warned Germany’s rivals had all made strides since Mario Goetze’s extra-time goal gave them the title in 2014.

“There will be a high standard of opposition. Spain have improved, while Brazil and Argentina are up there,” he said.

England, who landed in Saint Petersburg, are not among the favourites in Russia but the third-youngest Three Lions squad ever to head to a World Cup boasts Premier League stars such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling.

“It’s the one competition that everybody dreams of winning,” said captain Kane before England set off.

“I’d be surprised if the majority of players did not say the World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world.”

Source: John Weaver|| AFP