One of the biggest questions dominating the footballing headlines in the lead up to the World Cup has regarded the health of arguably the world's best goalkeeper, Germany's Manuel Neuer.
Originally injured in September with a broken foot, Neuer missed the rest of Bayern Munich’s season, not making a single appearance at the end of the campaign when he was given the green light to play.
WATCH: Neuer's top five Bundesliga saves
Neuer returned to competitive action in a friendly against Austria nearly two weeks ago, after playing in two behind-closed-doors friendlies. The Bayern number one looked sharp and confident in the 2-1 defeat and while his team-mates have praised him, he also enjoys the faith of Bayern and Germany legend Sepp Maier.
"He's not lost it, even though he's been out for seven or eight months," said Maier on fcbayern.com. "I've not forgotten how to ride a bike either."
To Maier, Neuer's return should be a welcome one for Die Mannschaft, and there's really no one better qualified to judge than the 'cat from Anzing', who made 473 appearances for Bayern – only Oliver Kahn made more for the Bavarians. The 74-year-old is also Germany’s most capped goalkeeper with 95 and while some have questioned coach Joachim Löw’s decision to keep Neuer as his number one keeper, due to his lack of match fitness, Maier remains calm.
"You get that [match fitness] in training," he said. "You get the same situations that you get in a game and in fact you get them more frequently. Yes, a game's a bit different, but Manuel's an old fox. He doesn't need that long. The important thing is that he's fit and not in pain anymore."
As for his predictions for the tournament, Maier knows a thing or two about defending a World Cup title, having been the number one goalkeeper for Germany in 1978 after winning four years before. While he acknowledged repeating is a challenge – not just for Die Mannschaft but for any nation – he thinks Germany have the ability to do the job in Russia.
"Only two teams have ever defended the title and that was a long time ago [Italy in 1934 and 1938 and Brazil in 1958 and 1962]," said Maier. "I think we have a good chance of becoming the third team to do it, though I see France and Spain, and maybe even Belgium, as the favourites."
With Neuer back in goal, though, Germany can build their bid for renewed glory on solid foundations.