SOCHI, Russia (AFP) – World champions Germany will pit an inexperienced line-up against Australia in their Confederations Cup opener today (11PM local time) with striker Timo Werner anticipating a robust challenge from the Socceroos.
With an average age of just 24 years, four months, and a combined total of 179 international appearances, Germany have the most youthful squad of the eight Confed Cup teams.
Only three of the squad – Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi, Matthias Ginter and Julian Draxler – lifted the World Cup in Brazil three years ago, but none of the trio played in the Rio de Janeiro final.
With the likes of Thomas Mueller, Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng all left at home, Joshua Kimmich is the only Bayern Munich star in the Germany squad.
On the back of his breakthrough season with RB Leipzig, striker Timo Werner, 21, expects a fiery start in Sochi for the untested, green Germans.
“We don’t all know how fit we are after a long and hard season,” admitted Werner.
“Now comes an unpleasant game in which the Australians will try, with their physiques and toughness, to take us on.
“But we have a duty to win the three points. We need to get a quick goal and then exert some dominance.”
A year out from the World Cup in Russia, there has never been a better time for the Socceroos to poach a first win over Germany at a major competition at the fourth attempt.
The world champions have made no secret of the fact their goal is not to win the Confederations Cup, but to blood their next generation of stars.
“The first priority is to develop the team, the second to win here,” said team manager Oliver Bierhoff bluntly.
With the likes of key midfielders Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos rested, the pressure falls on 23-year-old captain Draxler.
With 30 caps, the Paris St-Germain star has the most experience and is expected to lead by example in the attacking midfield role.
World-class goalkeeper Neuer is recovering from foot surgery, so Bayer Leverkusen’s shot-stopper Bernd Leno is tasked with keeping Australia’s attack at bay.
Australia have held their heads high against Germany in their last two meetings in friendlies.
The Socceroos shocked the below-strength Germans 2-1 in Moenchengladbach in 2011.
Then two years ago, the 2015 Asian Cup champions drew 2-2 against Germany in Kaiserslautern.
However, the Socceroos have arrived in Russia on the back of a narrow World Cup qualifying win over Saudi Arabia and a hammering by Brazil.
Despite last Tuesday’s 4-0 drubbing by the Selecao in Melbourne, head coach Ange Postecoglou says the goal remains to bring the Confederations Cup home.
Winger Robbie Kruse has overcome a knee knock suffered in the Brazil defeat and could face the Germans.
After the opening game in Sochi, Cameroon and Chile then await Australia and Germany in Group B, with the top two sides progressing to the semi-finals.
Die Mannschaft will wear black-arm bands in Sochi to pay their respects to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who died on Friday.