Moscow: The phoney war is over and most of the big guns have arrived in Russia ahead of the start of the World Cup on Thursday. AFP Sport takes a look at how the favourites are shaping up.
In 2014, Brazil were being widely tipped for success on home soil but their campaign unravelled in spectacular fashion with a 7-1 semi-final defeat to eventual winners Germany. Now the five-time champions look
the real deal again. Coach Tite has transformed their fortunes and they are confident mood.
The absence of the injured Dani Alves at right-back is a blow but Neymar has proven his fitness in recent friendly matches, scoring in wins against Croatia and Austria. His goal in Vienna on Sunday, after his first
start following a foot operation three months ago, was stunning.
Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus has been the most prolific goalscorer during Tite's time in charge, in which the team have won 17 out of 21 matches.
"We are handling the expectation. It's good. We are going to challenge ourselves," said the coach after Sunday's final warm-up game. "There is only one little detail. A new stage begins now."
Germany are the holders and their reputation as a team that always delivers on the big stage tempers the doubts arising from their performances in recent friendlies.
Joachim Loew's side went five games without a win before labouring to a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia in their final wa...