Warm welcome in Sochi

Frankfurt (dpa) - Germany coach Joachim Loew wasted no time in removing the scarf from his neck when he and his 21-man squad landed in Sochi on Thursday for the Confederations Cup. The Black Sea resort, which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, offered a warm welcome for Germany with 25-degree celsius summer temperatures greeting the party which landed on time despite a slightly delayed air departure from Frankfurt.

And the reception for the world champions was also warm in a different manner later Thursday as local children were invited to watch the team go through their first training session on Russian soil. Loew has left several top stars out of the trip as he intends to use the tournament to test players ahead of the 2018 World Cup, also in Russia.

The opening game on Saturday pairs hosts Russia against New Zealand while Germany first play on Monday against Australia, in Sochi, before taking on Chile and Cameroon in Group B. "The Confed Cup is an opportunity. Next year we have to be in top form and deliver a good performance," was Loew's view ahead of the competition.

RB Leipzig's Diego Demme and Manchester City's Leroy Sane were late injury withdrawals from the squad but the likes of Kevin Trapp, Benjamin Henrichs and Kerem Demirbay all travel with only one previous cap to their names. "We are well prepared," said Borussia Moenchengladbach midfielder Lars Stindl ahead of his first major international tournament. "We know the difficulty of the group. The first focus is on Australia."

German Football Association president Reinhard Grindel backed Loew's decision to broaden his squad. "The main goal is to win the world title again in 2018," he said. But Grindel added the group had a "big desire" to turn in a strong performance in the tournament which concludes with the July 2 final in St Petersburg.