ST PETERSBURG: Whether Germany win the Confederations Cup final aganst Chile in St Petersburg they can already claim a gold medal for public relations which could stand them in good stead when they return next year to defend their world champions’ status writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The World Cup holders arrived in Russia two weeks’ ago playing down their prospects because most of their senior players had been allowed to take a summer holiday after the European Championship stresses last year.

However they have progressed impressively to the final, tightening up defence and scoring goals freely along the way, with captain Julian Draxler outstanding.

Now the Paris Saint-Germain forward has put his name to an grateful open letter to Russia, its people and fans for the welcome the German team has received.

The letter said:

Dear Russian football fans,

We have had the pleasure of spending the last three weeks in your country and, now that the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia is coming to an end, we would like to say thank you.

Thank you for your brilliant organisation, for the many helping hands along the way, and for always making us feel safe. We would also like to give thanks to the Russian organisation committee, the staff at the stadiums, hotels and airports, the many volunteers and of course you, the Russian football fans.

They say that the Confed Cup is a dress rehearsal for the World Cup. After three weeks here, we can say that Russia has passed that test with flying colours.

We have met many of you, whether on the beach in Sochi, or while visiting the Kazan Kremlin. We players have enjoyed every moment with the Russian fans. I also know that there is so much more to see in the huge nation of Russia, and while our travels this summer have been limited to Sochi, Kazan and St. Petersburg, what we have seen has been amazing.

We have played in architecturally stunning stadiums.

We have enjoyed many days of glorious sunshine on the coast of the Black Sea.

We have experienced just how vast this country is, 48 times bigger than our own.

We have also tried to do our bit for Russian-German relations off the pitch. DFB president Reinhard Grindel and DFB ambassador for versatility Thomas Hitzlsperger visited the Don Bosco children’s home in Moscow, and a donation of €17,000 will go towards renovating their football pitch.

It’s been a special occasion for me personally. I have been able to lead Germany out as captain for the first time. This young team has grown together in Russia, with passion and discipline. Every player has given their best, both off and on the pitch.

Our summer in Russia is now coming to an end, and the final in St. Petersburg awaits us. We want to say Danke, Spasiba and Dosvidanya. We’re already looking forward to returning in summer 2018.

Thank you – Julian Draxler