Germany midfielder Thomas Mueller (C) is congratulated by Jonas Hector (L) after scoring in the World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic in Hamburg. Germany won 3-0. Photograph:( AFP )
Germany forward Thomas Mueller expects revenge to be a factor when his side take on Brazil for the first time since humiliating the South Americans 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals.
Joachim Loew's Germany start fine-tuning preparations for their World Cup defence in Russia with high-profile friendlies against Spain in Duesseldorf on Friday and Brazil in Berlin next Tuesday.
Spain, the 2010 World Cup winners, have the first chance to break Germany's 21-match unbeaten run, dating back to their Euro 2016 semi-final defeat by France.
However, the clash four days later at Berlin's Olympic Stadium offers Brazil a rare chance to beat Germany in their own backyard and avenge the hammering in Belo Horizonte almost four years ago.
"Of course, you can imagine that the humiliation was great after losing a semi-final of a World Cup at home," said Mueller, who scored the first goal in that game.
"Brazil is really a football-mad country and the pressure on them was huge. However, our journey wasn't over and for us it was just a step towards the final."
The Spain and Brazil games are head coach Loew's last chance to assess his options before naming his World Cup squad on May 15.
"Two top matches await us -- we're up against superb teams. It's fun to compete with the best," added Bayern Munich forward Mueller. "We all have the mentality that we always want to win, that's why we're the elite. The competition within the squad is a means to keep up the performance level. No one can afford to relax, everyone's challenged.
"It's not just that we have eight or 11 good players, more like 20 or 25.
"It's a good situation for the coach to be in. But this is an opportunity to show what we can do against big opponents in big games."
However, big names are missing in the ranks of the four-time World Cup winners.
Borussia Dortmund pair Mario Goetze, who scored the winning goal in the 2014 final against Argentina, and Marco Reus were left out to focus on their club form.
Germany captain Manuel Neuer, who last played an international in October 2016, is still sidelined with a fractured foot he suffered in September.
Loew must also decide whether Sandro Wagner or Mario Gomez will go to Russia as the back-up to first-choice striker Timo Werner.
Likewise, Paris Saint-Germain's Kevin Trapp and Bernd Leno of Bayer Leverkusen are vying for the third goalkeeping berth behind first-choice Neuer and reserve Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
"I am glad that I do not have to decide who will be going," Germany midfielder Sami Khedira admitted to magazine Sport Bild.
As the Juventus player acknowledges, there will be "no free ticket" to Russia for any German stars.
Liverpool midfielder Emre Can sat out training on Wednesday with slight back pain, while Bayern's Sebastian Rudy will join the squad late as he awaits the birth of his child.
Germany vs Spain: Saturday March 24, 1,15 am IST
Germany vs Brazil: Wednesday, March 28, 12.15 am IST