Germany eye World Cup redemption as Spain, Croatia kick off
Germany begin their path to World Cup redemption on Wednesday after the 2018 horror show in Russia, with Spain and Croatia also kicking off their campaigns in Qatar.
After Saudi Arabia stunned Lionel Messi’s Argentina, ending the South American champions’ 36-match unbeaten run, Germany will be on high alert in their opening match against Japan.
Croatia, surprise runners-up four years ago, take on Morocco in the early game. Spain face Costa Rica in the evening before Belgium play Canada in the late match.
As defending champions Germany crashed out in the group stage in Russia, suffering their earliest World Cup exit since 1938.
“We know that what happened four-and-a-half years ago was terrible, so we had quite a wait,” said Bayern Munich midfielder Joshua Kimmich.
“The first game is extremely important. We lost our first game at the last Euros and we didn’t win the tournament, so I hope tomorrow we will win.”
The four-time world champions have been steady but not spectacular under Hansi Flick, who took over last year after long-serving coach Joachim Loew stood down.
Spain hope to make a far smoother entrance than they did in Russia, where Julen Lopetegui was sacked on the eve of the tournament for accepting the Real Madrid job.
They have the third youngest squad at the World Cup, with Luis Enrique leaning on younger talents while some older players like Sergio Ramos were left out of the squad.
“It’s very positive because young players bring energy to the team, we try to manage that with the experience we have as staff,” said Luis Enrique.
Time is running out for Belgium’s golden generation who formed the backbone of the squad that finished third at the last World Cup.