Germany set to put San Marino to the sword

Germany's national football team players attend a training session at the Misano stadium on Nov 10, 2016, on the eve of the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying football match against San Marino.
Germany's national football team players attend a training session at the Misano stadium on Nov 10, 2016, on the eve of the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying football match against San Marino. PHOTO: AFP

SERRAVALLE (San Marino) • World champions Germany face minnows San Marino today in a 2018 World Cup qualifier - a David versus Goliath match-up.

The landlocked mountainous microstate in North Italy has a population of just 33,400 and its football team is ranked 199 places below second-placed Germany by football's governing body Fifa.

Despite a mounting injury list, anything less than a convincing win would be unacceptable to the four-time World Cup winners.

Germany top Group C with a perfect record of nine points from three wins. Joachim Low's men have scored eight goals with none conceded.

At the bottom of the table, San Marino's part-timers have lost all three games, conceding nine goals and scoring just once, when Mattia Stefanelli netted in last month's 4-1 defeat in Norway.

"It was a great feeling to score a goal for my national team. I've dreamt about doing it since I was a kid," said the 23-year-old, who netted San Marino's first goal in a World Cup qualifier since 2001. "Nothing is impossible. It's a great opportunity to face the world champions, we have to enjoy it and fight until the last minute."

  • 13-0

    Germany's record away win - at San Marino's Stadio Olimpico in 2006.

The qualifier will be played at Serravalle's 7,000-seater Stadio Olimpico, where Germany beat San Marino 13-0 in 2006 - an away record for Die Mannschaft.

The Germans want to preserve their perfect record on the road to Russia, having already beaten Norway, the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland.

"The last qualifying match of the year is just as serious as the three previous games, so we do not want to be arrogant in San Marino," said Germany coach Low.

"We'll be highly concentrated and serious in our task. It's our duty to get a win in San Marino and to extend our lead in the table."

However, Germany have injury woes with captain Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos, Jerome Boateng and Mesut Ozil missing from their first-choice line-up.

Forwards Julian Draxler and Julian Brandt also miss out with either injury or illness.

Miroslav Klose, the all-time top scorer at World Cup Finals with 16 goals, will be on the Germany bench for the first time as he begins his coaching career after retiring from football last week.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2016, with the headline 'Germany set to put San Marino to the sword'. Print Edition | Subscribe