GERMANY kick off their quest for a record-equalling fifth World Cup with a meeting against Japan.
The 2018 campaign in Russia ended in a miserable group stage exit, so Hansi Flick’s side will be desperate to right their wrongs from four years ago.
Although expectation is not particularly high for the 2014 champions, who have reached at least the semis in four of the last five tournaments.
The Samurai Blue are skippered by former Southampton star Maya Yoshida, with Arsenal ace Takehiro Tomiyasu providing more defensive solidity.
Here, SunSport previews the Group E clash as Germany look to avoid a repeat of their disastrous 2018 campaign.
How did they get there?
Germany: The 2014 champions breezed through qualifying, winning nine out of their 10 games en route to Qatar.
Their only loss was a shock 2-1 defeat at home to North Macedonia.
But their qualifying campaign did include a 6-0 win against Armenia and a 9-0 victory over Liechtenstein.
Japan: The Samurai Blue finished second in their group during the third round of Asian qualifiers to seal their spot in tournament.
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They qualified automatically, behind Saudi Arabia, winning seven out of their 10 games.
What’s the form?
Germany: The Germans aren’t on the best of runs going into the tournament, winning just two out of their last eight games.
That includes two draws against England, and a shock home defeat to Hungary in September.
The four-time winners edged past Oman 1-0 in a friendly last week in far from convincing fashion.
Japan: The Samurai Blue lost a friendly against Canada last week after conceding in the 95th minute.
But they did register an impressive 2-0 win over USA back in September, with Brighton ace Kaoru Mitoma one of the scorers.
Underestimating them would be foolish.
Who are the managers?
Germany: Hansi Flick is the highest-paid manager at the World Cup, earning a reported £5.5MILLION-a-year.
The 57-year-old took over in 2021 after a two-year spell with Bayern Munich that saw him guide the Bundesliga side to Champions League glory.
He also spent eight years as Germany assistant manager from 2006-2014, winning the tournament in Brazil eight years ago.
Japan: Hajime Moriyasu was appointed manager of Japan immediately after the last World Cup.
The 54-year-old led them to the final of the Asia Cup in 2019.
But his side were beaten by this year’s World Cup hosts Qatar.
Who are the star players?
Germany: SERGE GNABRY has been on fire this season for Bayern Munich, and will be hoping to continue that stunning form into the tournament.
The ex-Arsenal winger has scored 10 goals and provided 10 assists in 23 games in all competitions since the summer.
His form in recent months has seen him linked with a return to the Gunners.
Japan: KYOGO FURUHASHI is likely to start up front for Japan, and he could pose some problems for the Germans.
The 27-year-old has been a revelation since joining Celtic in the summer of 2021.
Furuhashi has netted 10 times in 13 Scottish Premiership games this season, and has 31 goals in 53 games for Celtic overall.
What’s the head to head?
Germany wins: 1
Japan wins: 0
Which TV channel will show the game?
Germany vs Japan will be shown live on ITV 1 in the UK.
The game will also be streamed live on ITVX.
What are the odds?
Germany win: 4-9
Japan win: 33-5
Germany may not be in the best of form, but, 2018 aside, they turn up when the World Cup comes around.
And their exciting attackers, mixed with the experienced Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich, should be too much for Japan.