Germany are bidding to win the FIFA World Cup for a record-equalling fifth time this summer, and become the first nation to win back-to-back crowns since Brazil in 1962.
His smile one of the widest on the winning podium in Saint Petersburg following Germany’s FIFA Confederations Cup win last summer, that thrill of victory infected full-back Jonas Hector so much so that the 28-year-old is keen for even more success in Russia. Now a staple of Joachim Löw's defending World Cup champions, the versatile defender is a key asset to Die Mannschaft's title hopes.
Who is he?
In an era of footballing mega-deals and oft-changing allegiances, Hector is a true rarity. Despite his club side Cologne suffering the agony of relegation to Germany's second division at the end of last season, the player offered his commitment to the club by signing a contract extension and vowing to help the Billy Goats bounce straight back up.
At Cologne since signing from local side Auersmacher at 19, Hector has racked up almost 200 senior games for the Carnival Club, impressing so much that Germany mastermind Löw moved to offer the player a senior international debut in 2014. His decision to remain at relegated Cologne mirrors one made by club legend Lukas Podolski two years prior to the 2006 FIFA World Cup. If Hector can win as many plaudits as Podolski subsequently did at that year's finals, it will surely equate to a big campaign for Germany.
What position does he play?
Pretty much wherever you tell him to. It is at left full-back that Hector shines, however, and it is from there where the majority of his 10 assists in 37 internationals have been delivered. Also an asset on the left side of a four-man midfield, Hector has even played a central midfield role, with Germany's coach not ruling the player out of fitting into that position if the need should arise.
Watch: Jonas Hector's 2017/18 Goal of the Season!
What was his role in qualifying?
But for a ligament injury, Hector would surely have featured in every game of Germany's perfect qualification push, just as he played the entirety of his nation's UEFA Euro 2016 campaign. As it was, the Cologne hero weighed in with two goals and provided four assists in eight appearances as the holders advanced with little fuss.
What to look for in Russia
It's altogether possible that Jonas Hector is the most chilled-out member of Germany's finals squad - off the pitch, that is. His hard work, astute tackling, keen positioning sense and willingness to get forward and provide that killer cross are all bound to be on display in these finals.
What they're saying
"He defends, attacks and passes well. He also knows when to sit back and get stuck in, and when to go forward. Above all, he's reliable and has a cool head." - Joachim Löw
"He's developed into a top-class player. You can see how he has grown in confidence. He's matured on and off the pitch [and has] become an integral member of the Germany team." - Former Cologne coach Peter Stöger
"It's a signal that shows a certain connection to the club. I think it's fantastic and it shows me that not everything in football is going in the wrong direction." - Ex-Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes on Hector’s decision to remain at relegated Cologne.