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.
Who is he?
If there is one man who is delighted simply to be in Russia, it is Borussia Dortmund forward Marco Reus. The supremely talented 29-year-old is gearing up for just his second major tournament with Die Mannschaft – after playing a bit part at UEFA Euro 2012 – having missed both the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 due to injury.
Born in Dortmund in 1989, Reus began playing for local club Post SV Dortmund at the tender age of four, before joining the Borussia Dortmund academy as a six-year-old. After nearly a decade on the BVB books, he switched to Rot-Weiß Ahlen in 2005, having been told that his slight physique would make it tough for him to become a professional. Defying the odds, Reus took his first steps in Bundesliga 2 with Ahlen before stepping up to the Bundesliga with Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2009/10. It was there – especially after the 2011 arrival of coach Lucien Favre, with whom he will link up at Dortmund next term – that Reus truly became a star.
What position does he play?
With 36 goals and 25 assists in 97 appearances for the Foals, Reus earned himself a big-money move back to hometown club Dortmund in 2012, the year in which he was named Germany's Footballer of the Year. Quick, technically gifted and boasting extraordinary on-field intelligence, Reus might have emerged as the best player of his generation had it not been for his various injury woes. Torn ankle ligaments in the final pre-tournament friendly denied him a spot at the 2014 World Cup, where Germany's jubilant players later held aloft his shirt after conquering the title. A pubic bone injury put paid to his Euro 2016 hopes, before a cruciate ligament tear sustained in the 2017 DFB Cup final kept him out for half of the 2017/18 campaign. In short, it has been a miserable few years for a player who goes into the 2018 World Cup with just 31 caps under his belt – but he is, at last, set to shine on the biggest stage of them all.
One of the reasons Joachim Löw was so keen to include a fit-again Reus in his squad is his great versatility. He has spent most of his career as an attacking midfielder or winger, and showed recently just how comfortable he is scoring goals as well as setting them up, after Dortmund teammate Michy Batshuayi was injured for the final month of the season. Favre played Reus up front in a 4-4-2 during his most prolific Bundesliga season, 2011/12, when he netted 18 goals in 32 appearances for Gladbach. His overall record in the German top flight speaks volumes – a whopping 99 goals and 64 assists in 233 games. Who wouldn't want him in their team?
Watch: In 2017/18, Reus became just the third player to score against every Bundesliga club
What was his role in qualifying?
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Reus did not feature in a single 2018 World Cup qualifier due to his injury problems in 2016 and 2017. In fact, his appearance off the bench in the recent friendly with Austria was his first with Germany since all the way back in March 2016. He clearly hasn't lost his touch though – in the final tune-up against Saudi Arabia, he needed just eight minutes to tee up RB Leipzig's Timo Werner for the opening goal.
What to look for in Russia
Löw described Reus as a "special weapon" when including him in his preliminary World Cup squad in May, and he will certainly give the Germany attack an extra layer of quality and unpredictability against teams who are likely to defend deep. The reigning world champions boast some of the most talented midfielders on the planet – the likes of Toni Kroos, Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira – while Thomas Müller and Mario Gomez are proven goal-getters, and Werner looks primed to take the tournament by storm. Reus could well be the X-factor who provides that all-important link between midfield and attack as Die Mannschaft look to defend their crown and join Brazil on five World Cup wins.
Watch: Reus recently sat down for an exclusive chat with bundesliga.com...
What they're saying
Reus: "I'm delighted to be here, it's every footballer's dream to play at a World Cup. The tournament is long and every player will be needed, so hopefully I'll get my chance to play. I want to do my bit to help the team."
Löw: "Marco is like a rocket! He is incredibly skilful, intelligent and surprises opponents. He shows amazing skill in what he does, it seems to be light and playful. His timing is good, also in his passing, and he's refined in his finishing."
Mats Hummels: "He's always looking to make things happen in the final third, and he makes a lot of great runs down the channels. He fits in perfectly with the rest of the team."