In 2014, Brazil were being widely tipped for success on home soil but their campaign unravelled in spectacular fashion with a 7-1 semi-final defeat to eventual winners Germany. Now the five-time champions look the real deal again. Coach Tite has transformed their fortunes and they are confident mood.
"We are handling the expectation. It's good. We are going to challenge ourselves," said the coach after Sunday's final warm-up game. "There is only one little detail. A new stage begins now."
Germany are the holders and their reputation as a team that always delivers on the big stage tempers the doubts arising from their performances in recent friendlies.
Joachim Loew's side went five games without a win before labouring to a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia in their final warm-up in Leverkusen on Friday.
The fact that first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has hardly played since September after injury is a concern but the Germans have made at least the semi-finals in each of the past four World Cups and are bound to feature prominently again in Russia.
And their recent friendly results?
"I am conscious of the fact that in friendly matches it is not necessarily about the result," coach Loew -- who has left Manchester City's Leroy Sane behind -- reminded Kicker.
They are yet to lose in two years under Julen Lopetegui, completing their preparations with a 1-0 win over Tunisia on Saturday in Krasnodar.
It was not the most convincing performance but Iago Aspas advanced his case for a starting role in attack in Friday's Group B opener against Portugal with a late winner.
Optimism has been growing in France about the prospects of Les Bleus, but Saturday's 1-1 draw with the United States was a timely reminder for Didier Deschamps' side that they still have work to do.
They needed a late Kylian Mbappe goal to earn a draw in their final friendly, which followed wins against Ireland and Italy. Sports daily L'Equipe called it a "cold blast" before the French travelled to Russia on Sunday.
Paul Pogba's performance in that game was a boost, though, and Deschamps appears to have found a formation that suits him.
A diamond midfield accommodates Pogba and allows Antoine Griezmann to play just behind Mbappe and Olivier Giroud up front, but there is maybe a worry in goal, where Hugo Lloris no longer looks so reliable.
Nevertheless, they are capable of reaching the last four.
Argentina are lucky to be in Russia at all after a chaotic qualifying campaign and their build-up to the finals has been far from smooth.
That may be unfair though. Sampaoli has talent in his squad, including the exciting Giovani Lo Celso in midfield and an attack also featuring Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala and Angel Di Maria.
However, even if they manage to win a challenging group, Spain could lie in wait in the quarter-finals for the 2014 runners-up.