Germany will find out who stands between them and a successful defence of the World Cup as the draw for the 2018 finals in Russia is held in a glitzy ceremony within the Kremlin in Moscow on Friday, AFP reports.
After beating Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the final at the Maracana in Rio to lift the World Cup in 2014, the aim for Joachim Loew’s side now is to become the first nation since Brazil in 1962 to retain the trophy.
Having already won the Confederations Cup in Russia earlier this year with a fringe squad, the Germans are leading favourites for glory in 2018, a status that Loew himself has said there is no avoiding. Then again, not everyone agrees.
The Germans can expect stiff competition from the Brazil of Neymar — revitalised after their nightmare 7-1 loss to the Germans on home soil — and Spain in particular.
The first step, though, is discovering who they will meet in the group stage as the focus turns to the State Kremlin Palace, where the snow and freezing temperatures of a Russian winter will greet the footballing world for a ceremony starting at 6pm local time.
For all the talk of the controversial awarding of the tournament in the first place, of the friction between Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the west, and of fears over hooliganism and potential terror attacks, the draw marks the moment when excitement really starts to build towards the actual competition.
Coaches, players and fans will get an idea of who their teams will face, when and where in this enormous country which will see games staged at venues in 11 different cities, often thousands of kilometres apart, between June 14 and July 15.
Germany, Brazil and Argentina are all in the first pot along with France, European champions Portugal, Belgium, Poland and the hosts.
But if those nations are certain of avoiding each other, danger lurks in pot two, where the Spanish — rebuilt into a formidable force by Julen Lopetegui after poor showings in 2014 and at Euro 2016 — lie along with England.
This will be the penultimate 32-nation tournament before FIFA’s grand plan for 48 teams comes into effect for 2026 and world football’s governing body will keep apart sides from the same continent with the exception of Europe, which has 14 representatives to go into the eight groups.
As a result, most of the sections will contain two European nations, raising the prospect of England or Spain meeting Germany or France in heavyweight contests right from the start.