PARIS: World Cup holders Germany appear to have been given a fairly kind draw in Group F alongside Mexico, Sweden and South Korea as they aim to become the first country to successfully defend the trophy since Brazil in 1962.
Such is the strength in depth available to coach Joachim Loew -- who recently extended his contract through to 2022 -- that there was no place in the squad for Mario Goetze, scorer of the winning goal against Argentina in the 2014 final.
Manuel Neuer's fitness has been the biggest concern, but given that Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen can step in for him, they might not even really need the Bayern Munich goalkeeper.
Germany won last year's Confederations Cup in Russia with a young squad that showcased their great strength in depth. That run included a 4-1 destruction of Mexico in the semi-finals.
The Mexicans qualified comfortably for Russia but 'El Tri' have fallen in the last 16 in each of the last six World Cups and matching that is probably the height of their ambitions this time.
It could be an interesting battle between Juan Carlos Osorio's side, Sweden and the Koreans for second place behind the Germans.
Sweden are back at the tournament after dramatically ousting Italy in a play-off -- they also beat France in qualifying so should not be underestimated in this post-Zlatan Ibrahimovic era.
The Koreans, meanwhile, have made little impression on the World Cup finals apart from reaching the semis as co-hosts in 2002.
With a squad mainly made up of players based at home, or in China and Japan, they will hope to spring a surprise here.
Their opening match against Sweden in Nizhny Novgorod on June 18 will be crucial, while Germany kick off their title defence against Mexico in Moscow a day earlier.
But whoever comes second risks a last-16 meeting with Brazil.