One of two Southampton stars heading to Qatar, Armel Bella-Kotchap will hope to be involved as serial challengers Germany bid for a record-equalling fifth World Cup triumph.

Germany topped their group seamlessly, winning nine of their ten qualifiers and scoring 36 goals in the process, conceding only four.

The only setback was a shock home defeat to Macedonia under former manager Joachim Löw, who remained in charge for the European Championships last summer.

But Germany underperformed for the second successive tournament, following up their group-stage exit from the 2018 World Cup by going out to England in the last 16.

Since then, former Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick has transformed

into a potent attacking side, losing only one of his 16 games in charge to date and averaging three goals a game.

Wednesday 23rd November

Germany vs Japan

Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan

ITV, 1pm GMT

Sunday 27th November

Spain vs Germany

Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor

BBC, 7pm GMT

Thursday 1st December

Costa Rica vs Germany

Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan

ITV, 7pm GMT

It looks as though the 20-year-old centre-back has timed his arrival on the international scene to perfection.

Called up for the first time for the September Nations League double-header, he made his debut as a late substitute in a thrilling 3-3 draw with England at Wembley.

Bella-Kotchap played an hour of last week’s warm-up game against Oman, a 1-0 win, but again as a substitute after Lukas Klostermann was withdrawn in the first half as a precaution.

At this stage it seems unlikely the Saint will be a starter for the World Cup opener against Japan, but could certainly force his way into the line-up over the course of the tournament.

As is usually the case with German sides, this is not a team heavily reliant on one star, but they do boast two world-class goalkeepers in Manuel Neuer and Marc-André ter Stegen.

Joshua Kimmich is outstanding either as a right-back or central midfielder, but it is the attack that is Germany’s greatest strength.

In Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané, Flick has two flying wingers at his disposal, while this could be the tournament that sees Jamal Musiala break out and showcase his talent to the world, albeit the 19-year-old may have to start from the bench.

Thomas Müller remains a favourite, with 118 caps and ten World Cup goals to his name, while Kai Havertz has a better scoring record for Germany than he does for Chelsea, including a recent brace against England.

Germany are rated sixth favourites with most bookmakers, suggesting progression beyond the quarter-finals would represent a positive performance.

But this is a country with a proud history in international football, winning seven major titles – no team have won more Euros and only Brazil have more World Cups – and, as the English know better than most, write off the Germans at your peril.

Combining experienced campaigners from their triumphant 2014 vintage with a host of talented youngsters, Flick’s expansive style makes this Germany side an exciting watch.

Question marks remain over who will start in defence, with only Antonio Rüdiger assured of his place, while up front they lack a natural No 9 and rely on the goals being shared between an array of attacking options.

The second game of the group against Spain will be a good early indication of how far this Germany team can go. Should they win the group, a quarter-final meeting with pre-tournament favourites Brazil is likely.