World champions Germany will field an inexperienced line-up against Australia in their Confederations Cup opener on Monday with striker Timo Werner fearing 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.
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 key for us is to believe in the way we play,” said Australia’s veteran midfielder Tim Cahill, 37, in Sunday’s press conference.
“We know they are a young side, but we also know they have a lot of great players.
“There is a lot of pressure on them as a country to do well here and on their players, who are fighting for a spot hopefully at (next year’s) World Cup for Germany.
“They know they have to produce. If we play the style (that) we know, we can definitely beat them.”
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 Confed Cup is like a gift for me,” said Germany’s head coach Joachim Loew.
“It will help us reach our goals next year or afterwards and it helps to make our players better.”
– Pressure on Draxler –
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.
After last Tuesday’s 4-0 drubbing by the Selecao in Melbourne, head coach Ange Postecoglou expects Germany’s young guns to prove themselves in Sochi.
“It’s a great test for us, but I am not buying into the idea we are playing a weakened team — I think that’s a bit of a myth,” insisted the Socceroos’ coach.
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.
Germany` will wear black-arm bands in Sochi to pay their respects to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who died on Friday.