World Cup 2018 - Day Four at a glance
Favourites Brazil and defending champions Germany get their campaigns up and running
Neymar has been in good form during Brazil’s warm-up games. Photograph: EPA
One to Watch
On Friday Cristiano Ronaldo reminded the world - not that it was needed - that at 33 his powers are far from waning as he scored a stunning hat-trick to help Portugal to a 3-3 draw with Spain. On Saturday Lionel Messi huffed and puffed and ducked and dived and schemed, but ultimately couldn’t carry Argentina past minnows Iceland, missing a penalty as his side were held 1-1 in Moscow. Today, the stage is set for Neymar - widely thought of as the world’s third-best player - as Brazil begin their World Cup campaign against Switzerland in Rostov. Neymar’s last finals ended in tears, as he was stretchered off during his side’s quarter-final win over Colombia with a fracture in his back. Injury has again disrupted his build-up this time round - he fractured a metatarsal playing for PSG in February - but he is now fit and firing and looks to have the bit between his teeth. He is the key to Brazil’s hopes of justifying World Cup favouritism.
Eyebrows were raised when Philip Lahm retired at the relatively tender age of 33 but both Germany and Bayern Munich have been able to comfortably cope with his departure thanks to the emergence of Joshua Kimmich (23). Kimmich will start at right back for Germany but regularly featured at centre-half during Pep Guardiola’s Bayern tenure, and he cites central midfield as his favourite position. He seems destined to captain Die Mannschaft. However, he will have his hands full on Sunday as he comes up against Mexican prodigy Herving Lozano (22). Nicknamed ‘Chucky’ after the murderous doll from the film series, Lozano enjoyed a fine maiden season in Europe, scoring 19 times as PSV Eindhoven were crowned champions of the Eredivisie. With Javier Hernandez’s powers seemingly fading, Lozano is Mexico’s attacking future.
Did you Know?
Switzerland prodigy Breel Embolo moved from FC Basel to Schalke 04 in the summer of 2016 - but he suffered a serious ankle injury that October, ruling him out for a year. The 21-year-old was a product of the FC Basel youth system, and he received plenty of support from the club’s most famous fan during his rehabilitation, with Roger Federer proving a trusty ally on the comeback trail. Federer - who moved back to world number one on Saturday - remains a mentor and confidante to Embolo, who looks set to make up for lost time this summer. In January, Embolo told Bild: “I was lucky that Roger also comes from Basel and was often in the stadium. When I was injured he invited me to one of his matches and gave me tips - even offered me help. You always look up to athletes like that. You treasure every second with them and listen carefully.”
Cup of Plenty
Sunday sees the World Cup’s most successful and joint-second most successful sides in action. Five-time winners Brazil haven’t lifted the trophy since 2002, while Germany could pull level with the Seleção should they achieve the improbably and defend their crown this summer.