Ger­many’s ‘ruth­less’ mis­sion

New Straits Times - - Sport -

BAKU: Record-break­ing Ger­many face Azer­bai­jan to­day with head coach Joachim Loew in­sist­ing their sim­ple goal is to “ruth­lessly” se­cure World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion as quickly as pos­si­ble.

The de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons are cur­rently five points clear in Group C and a fifth straight win would take them a step closer to Rus­sia 2018.

Af­ter Wed­nes­day’s friendly home win over Eng­land, when Lukas Podol­ski ended his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer with the win­ning goal, Ger­many aim to be busi­ness-like in Baku.

Even their plane on the flight from Dues­sel­dorf was called “Siegen” (’To Win’).

Against Eng­land, Ger­many did not con­cede a goal for the sev­enth match run­ning to set a new na­tional record.

The Ger­mans have not leaked a goal since their 2-0 semi-fi­nal de­feat to France at Euro 2016 last July.

“Our goal is to se­cure a ticket for the World Cup as soon as pos­si­ble,” said Loew.

“I am ab­so­lutely con­vinced that we will con­tinue our win­ning run.”

Last Oc­to­ber, Loew said he had two aims for the rest of the sea­son: “that the team re­main sta­ble and we ruth­lessly go through the qual­i­fy­ing phase.”

Both goals have so far been ful­filled with Ger­many win­ning all four qual­i­fy­ing games so far, scor­ing 16 goals and con­ced­ing none.

Hav­ing fielded an ex­per­i­men­tal side against Eng­land, Loew will have first-choice starters Sami Khedira, Ju­lian Draxler and Mario Gomez avail­able af­ter mi­nor knocks.

There is a ques­tion mark over Me­sut Ozil, who pulled out of Fri­day’s train­ing ses­sion with a back in­jury, but flew to Baku, un­like Ju­lian Weigl, who has a thigh in­jury.

Ger­many cap­tain Manuel Neuer is out with a calf in­jury, as is his Bay­ern Mu­nich team­mate Jerome Boateng, who is re­gain­ing fit­ness af­ter shoul­der surgery.

Ris­ing star striker Timo Werner, 21, is out with a thigh in­jury hav­ing made his de­but against Eng­land.

In Neuer’s ab­sence, Barcelona’s Marc-An­dre ter Ste­gen is ex­pected to play in goal.

“I have great faith in my play­ers, we know we can find the right so­lu­tions, and if we play the way we can, we will win the game,” added Loew.

“But the task in Baku is far from easy, at home Azer­bai­jan fi­nally beat Nor­way, so we have been warned.”

Azer­bai­jan’s re­sults have im­proved un­der Croa­t­ian coach Robert Prosi­necki.

They were ranked as low as 126th in Oc­to­ber 2014 when Berti Vogts walked away as head coach fol­low­ing a 6-0 thrash­ing by Croa­tia.

“They only think about their cash and don’t do any­thing to earn The Fifa world rank­ing of Azer­bai­jan it,” fumed the Ger­man at the time. “I can’t do any­thing with them.”

Now Azer­bai­jan are ranked 89th in the world, al­beit 86 places be­low the Ger­mans.

They man­aged a 1-0 up­set win over Nor­way last Oc­to­ber, but were thrashed 4-0 by North­ern Ire­land in Belfast a month later and warmed up for the Ger­many clash by beat­ing Qatar 2-1 away.

Ac­cord­ing to Ger­man mid­fielder Toni Kroos, Azer­bai­jan are “not in the same cat­e­gory as Liecht­en­stein or San Marino, they’re bet­ter, but we have to win there.”

Prosi­necki said the hosts be­lieve in them­selves and he has the re­al­is­tic aim of qual­i­fy­ing for Rus­sia 2018, which would be Azer­bai­jan’s first ap­pear­ance at a fi­nals.

He wants his side to “not only de­fend, but play foot­ball,” against Ger­many and says they can “sur­prise any op­po­nent.” AFP

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