FRANKFURT: Germany coach Joachim Loew wasted no time in removing the scarf from his neck when he and his 21-man squad landed in Sochi on Thursday for the Confederations Cup. The Black Sea resort, which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, offered a warm welcome for Germany with 25 degree celsius summer temperatures greeting the party which landed on time despite a slightly delayed air departure from Frankfurt.
And the reception for the world champions will likely be warm in a different manner later on Thursday when local children are invited to watch the team go through their first training session on Russian soil.
Loew has left several top stars out of the trip as he intends to use the tournament to test players ahead of the 2018 World Cup, also in Russia.
The opening game on Saturday pairs hosts Russia against New Zealand, while Germany first play on Monday against Australia, in Sochi, before taking on Chile and Cameroon in Group B.
“The Confed Cup is an opportunity. Next year we have to be in top form and deliver a good performance,” was Loew’s view ahead of the competition.
RB Leipzig’s Diego Demme and Manchester City’s Leroy Sane were late injury withdrawals from the squad but the likes of Kevin Trapp, Benjamin Henrichs and Kerem Demirbay all travel with only one previous cap to their names.
“We are well prepared,” said Borussia Moenchengladbach midfielder Lars Stindl ahead of his first major international tournament. “We know the difficulty of the group. The first focus is on Australia.”
German Football Association president Reinhard Grindel backed Loew’s decision to broaden his squad. “The main goal is to win the world title again in 2018,” he said.
But Grindel added the group had a “big desire” to turn in a strong performance in the tournament which concludes with the July 2 final in St Petersburg.
NZ FOCUS ON RUSSIA OPENER
Meanwhile, New Zealand are focusing on their own game as they work out how best to approach their Confederations Cup opponents, starting with Russia on Saturday.
“We know it is going to be difficult,” midfielder Marco Rojas said in St Petersburg on Thursday.
“We realise what we are up against, but it is a game of football, eleven against eleven… we will stick to our own game plan.”
New Zealand are the lowest ranked team in the eight-nation tournament, and after opening against the hosts are up against possibly even more difficult opponents in Mexico and European champions Portugal.
A good result against Russia would be “to get some points,” Rojas said of the opening game.
“You are always disappointed as a professional if you don’t come away with anything,” he said.
The Melbourne Victory player is looking forward to a special atmosphere and a hostile home crowd in the St Petersburg Stadium, but is relishing the challenge.
“These are the sort of games you want as a footballer,” he said.
Fellow midfielder Michael McGlinchey picked out Russia striker Fedor Smolov as a danger man. The Krasnodar number nine is the player “we will have to keep a close eye on,” he said. — dpa