Germany target ‘Pe ect 12’ on road to Russia
GERMANY are targeting another win not only in today’s World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland, but are gunning for a perfect 12 points on the road to Russia.
Victories away to Norway and at home to the Czech Republic by the same 3-0 scorelines leave Germany top of Group C, and the world champions are in no mood to drop points against Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland in Hanover.
A win over the Irish then a fourthstraight victory over tournament minnows San Marino on November 11 would yield a maximum 12 points from four matches, leaving Germany in pole position to qualify for 2018 World Cup.
“We want to do it all again and make sure we have 12 points in November. Then we would be in a very comfortable situation in the table,” said defender Mats Hummels.
A two-goal difference puts Germany ahead of tournament surprise Azerbaijan, who have also won their opening two games.
Northern Ireland are in third after beating San Marino 4-0 in Belfast on October 8 following a goalless draw against the Czech Republic last month.
After Germany beat the Irish 1-0 in a Euro 2016 group match in June, coach Joachim Loew expects another hard-fought match.
“The team is passionate. The players have a big heart,” said Loew.
“A large part of their Euro 2016 squad will also be in Hanover, so we know what to expect.”
Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan is expected to start, having made his first appearance in the famous white shirt for nearly a year against the Czechs following an injury absence.
Defenders Jerome Boateng and Jonas Hector, plus winger Julian Draxler are fit despite some scrapes in the 3-0 win over the Czech Republic on October 8.
Thomas Mueller has now scored four goals in his last two internationals after a brace against the Czech.
Meanwhile, 25-year-old Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 cult sensation Will Grigg will be left watching again as his partner recently gave birth.
‘We want to ... make sure we have 12 points in November. Then we would be in a very comfortable situation.’
Mats Hummels German football player
He has made 11 appearances and scored six goals for Wigan this season, but has yet to make an appearance in Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
In Grigg’s absence, Lafferty of Norwich City, Conor Washington of Queens Park Rangers and Leeds United’s Stuart Dallas will be vying to start up front against Germany.
Northern Ireland have not conceded a goal in five of their last seven qualifiers, but will face their toughest test yet against the world champions. –