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Russia proposed the following host cities: Kaliningrad, Kazan, Krasnodar, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Saint Petersburg, Samara, Saransk, Sochi, Volgograd, Yaroslavl, and Yekaterinburg. All the cities are in or just outside European Russia to reduce travel time for the teams in the huge country. The bid evaluation report stated: "The Russian bid proposes 13 host cities and 16 stadiums, thus exceeding FIFA's minimum requirement. Three of the 16 stadiums would be renovated, and 13 would be newly constructed."
In October 2011, Russia decreased the number of stadiums from 16 to 14. Construction of the proposed Podolsk stadium in the Moscow region was cancelled by the regional government, and also in the capital, Otkrytiye Arena was competing with Dynamo Stadium over which would be constructed first.
The final choice of host cities was announced on 29 September 2012. The number of cities was further reduced to 11 and number of stadiums to 12 as Krasnodar and Yaroslavl were dropped from the final list. Of the 12 stadiums used for the tournament, 3 (Luzhniki, Yekaterinburg and Sochi) have been extensively renovated and the other 9 stadiums to be used are brand new; $11.8 billion has been spent on hosting the tournament.
Sepp Blatter stated in July 2014 that due to concerns over the completion of venues in Russia, the number of venues for the tournament may be reduced from 12 to 10. He also said, "We are not going to be in a situation, as is the case of one, two or even three stadiums in South Africa, where it is a problem of what you do with these stadiums".
In October 2014, on their first official visit to Russia, FIFA's inspection committee and its head Chris Unger visited St Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan and both Moscow venues. They were satisfied with the progress.
On 8 October 2015, FIFA and the Local Organising Committee agreed on the official names of the stadiums used during the tournament.
Of the 12 venues used, the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow and the Saint Petersburg Stadium (the two largest stadiums in Russia) will be used most, with 7 matches being played at each of these stadiums. Sochi, Kazan, Nizhny Novogrod and Samara will host 6 matches including one quarter-final match apiece, and the Otkrytiye Stadium in Moscow and Rostov-on-Don will host 5 matches apiece including one round of 16 match each. Volgograd, Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg and Saransk will host 4 matches each and none of these cities will host any knockout stage games.
There was no real need to scrape the barrel for the fourth variation – wait until you see the list of absentees! Matthias Ginter stands as the sole survivor from 2014, but every single one of these players has represented their country at either senior or U-21 level.
Germany’s defensive strength in depth is underlined in the final line-up: two of the Bundesliga’s most reliable centre-backs, Willi Orban and Ginter, only appear on the periphery of Löw’s thinking. That said, the latter will no doubt fancy his chances of a spot on the plane to Russia after benefiting from his summer move to Gladbach, where he is now back to his best thanks to playing more regular football.
Behind them, Sven Ulreich would be a reliable option on the back of a particularly impressive season stepping into Manuel Neuer's shoes in the Bayern goal, but he doesn't seem to feature in Löw's thinking, whereas Trapp played the full 90 minutes in Germany's friendly against Brazil in March 2018.
A youthful, well-balanced midfield comprises Kerem Demirbay and Mahmoud Dahoud, whose fine start to life at Dortmund means he will surely be pushing for a first cap sooner, rather than later. The former's hopes of a trip to Russia rest in the balance, though, after suffering an injury on Matchday 32.
Another youngster to have had a fine start to life in Dortmund is Maximilian Philipp. A serious knee injury has curtailed his campaign, but the 24-year-old returned against Leipzig in March. Having rediscovered his pre-injury form, he'll be in with a real chance of a World Cup place. Although Löw is not a natural risk-taker, he has always been willing to reward players impressing domestically.
Leading the line in this side is Freiburg's Nils Petersen, the highest scoring German striker in the Bundesliga this season with 15 goals, putting him second in the overall scoring chart behind Bayern's Robert Lewandowski. That five of his goals have come from penalties can only count in his favour; it is a handy skill to have in a tournament where shootouts are a real possibility in the knockout stages.
Captain of the Confederations Cup-winning unit, Draxler is also in contention for the first-choice side, given Reus' well-documented injury troubles, while Gomez looks to have rediscovered some form since his move to VfB Stuttgart, and provides nous and experience up top - as well as a guarantee of goals (31 in 71 caps).
Marvin Plattenhardt looks to be at the front of the left-back queue when Hector is unavailable; Hertha Berlin’s free-kick specialist is as impressive going forward as he is solid in defence. Elsewhere, given that Niklas Süle continues to impress in Bayern colours, it’s hard to overlook his claims to be the next cab off the centre-back rank behind Hummels and Boateng.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen is already pencilled in as Manuel Neuer's No2 - will there be a better back-up goalkeeper in Russia? - while Bayer Leverkusen's Benjamin Henrichs is perhaps most in danger of slipping out of this team after largely being used as a substitute in the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign.