Germany want to fast-track World Cup qualification

BAKU • World champions Germany might be flying high in Group C as they bid to qualify for Russia 2018 but they have a clear message for their rivals.

They landed in Azerbaijan ahead of today's World Cup qualifier on a plane that was called "Siegen" ("To Win").

Head coach Joachim Low declared their simple goal is to "ruthlessly" qualify as quickly as possible. They are five points clear at the top and a fifth straight win would take them a step closer.

In a friendly against England on Wednesday, 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 Low, whose side have scored 16 goals and conceded none in qualifying so far.

"I am absolutely convinced we will continue our winning run."

 

  • Matches since world champions Germany last conceded a goal.

Having fielded an experimental side against England, he 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 team-mate 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.

Azerbaijan's results have improved under Croatian coach Robert Prosinecki. They were ranked as low as 126th in October 2014 when German Berti Vogts walked away as head coach following a 6-0 thrashing by Croatia.

Now Azerbaijan are ranked 89th in the world, albeit 86 places below Germany. 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 prepared for the Germany clash by beating Qatar 2-1 away.

Prosinecki says 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".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


AZERBAIJAN V GERMANY
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 26, 2017, with the headline 'Germany want to fast-track World Cup qualification'. Print Edition | Subscribe