Germany brought their World Cup qualifying campaign to a successful conclusion in Kaiserslautern, completing an perfect ten wins from ten matches with an emphatic and expected 5-1 win over Azerbaijan. Emphatic the result may have been, but once again it was a game of two halves. This time an ordinary first half was followed by a more convincing second as their opponents were put to the sword.
A smartly-taken opening goal had set the Mannschaft on their way, but a surprise Azerbaijan equaliser and two enforced early substitutions had threatened to upset the party. At 1-1 at half time there were a few rumblings in the crowd, but the team returned with far more purpose to put any threat of a shock upset safely to bed.
The four second half goals sealed was the final seal on a record-breaking campaign, with the team breaking and setting records as they went along. Some parts of the machine still need adjusting, but the current FIFA world number one team can look forward to next year’s World Cup with a degree of confidence.
Facts and Stats
Germany achieved their second ten from ten wins tally – the first coming in their Euro 2012 qualifying group – and their third 100% record in all. The first had come in qualifying for the World Cup in 1982, when Jupp Derwall’s team achieved a perfect eight wins from eight, racking up 33 goals in the process and conceding only three.
The 5-1 against win Azerbaijan took the Germans to a grand total of 43 goals, surpassing the previous record set by Spain who collected all thirty points while scoring 42 times in qualifying for Euro 2000.
Germany’s total of 43 goals was equalled by Belgium two days later, but the Mannschaft remain top of the stats as the Belgians, with “only” nine wins and a one draw, were unable to match the perfect points tally. Germany’s goal difference of +39 also surpassed Spain’s record of +37 set in 2000, which was matched by Belgium.
Of the 37 German players, only one would play in all ten matches. 22 year old Joshua Kimmich has been a fixture in the starting eleven since the Euros, and has now strung together 23 consecutive appearances. This is the most by any player in the Löw era. What makes Kimmich’s record even more impressive is that none of these caps have been won off the bench, and he has played for every minute in every match – including extra time in the Euro 2016 quarter-final against Italy. Where he also successfully converted a penalty in the shootout.
The record for the most consecutive completed matches for Germany is currently held by defensive terrier and former Nationaltrainer Berti Vogts, who put together a run of 36 full appearances between 1968 and 1971, as well as another 26 between 1974 and 1976. When Kimmich completed his 22nd consecutive ninety minutes against Northern Ireland, he passed a run of 21 matches accumulated by Franz Beckenbauer (1971-73) and… Berti Vogts (1977-1978).
In all, a total of 37 different players were picked by Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw during the qualifying campaign, with a record-breaking 21 of them getting on the scoreboard. When one includes the own goal scored San Marino’s Matthia Stefanelli in Serravalle, that makes 22 different sources over the ten matches.
After Sebastian Rudy’s first international strike four days earlier against Northern Ireland, there were two more names to add to the German goal scorers list in Kaiserslautern. With their second half goals, Antonio Rüdiger and Emre Can also joined the club.
Despite failing to find the net during the final four matches, Thomas Müller finished joint top scorer on five goals, alongside Sandro Wagner. A complete summary of the campaign can be found on the World Cup 2018 Qualifiers page.
The Nationaltrainer named a much-changed starting eleven from the one that had taken to the field against Northern Ireland in Belfast, with only four players not being rested.
As in the match four days earlier, Germany were in front early. A testing Kimmich cross was finely glanced on by Niklas Süle, and Leon Goretzka created a goal out of nothing with a sublime piece of control and skill. If Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo had done the same thing, we would still be hearing about it.
The early goal should have set things on their way, but following half hour was pretty torrid. Having sustained an early knock, Süle was forced to withdraw. Then, with just over ten minutes remaining in the first half, Shkodran Mustafi pulled up awkwardly, and while he was still on the ground Azerbaijan had fashioned an unexpected equaliser. ‘Keeper Bernd Leno was beaten at the near post and Mustafi became the second German player to hobble off the pitch in the space of fifteen minutes.
Rüdiger and Matthias Ginter had probably not expected any match time, but both were on the pitch before half time.
With the enforced replacement of two thirds of the defensive unit, there was little scope left for further personnel changes later on in the piece. The new back three was now an even newer and unplanned back three, and after a few initial wobbles things were slowly put back in place. If anything, Azerbaijan’s equaliser was just what the Germany team needed.
The Mannschaft that stepped out for the second half were far more focussed, and it would take less than ten minutes for them to retake the lead. Striker Sandro Wagner, with the help of the goal line technology, saw his well placed header cross the line, and when the impressive Goretzka calmly netted his second four minutes after the hour the game was pretty much done and dusted.
The crowd wanted more however, and the team delivered just that. A well-delivered Kimmich corner was headed home by the towering Rüdiger to put the result beyond any reasonable doubt, and the evening’s scoring was rounded off emphatically by Can nine minutes from time.
Conclusions and Ratings
Yet another “game of two halves”, but this time a poor first half and a much better second. Another job well done, and achieved with plenty to spare.
Despite the records being broken left, right and centre, there are still plenty of things for the coach to iron out as he looks to pick the the best squad for next year’s month-long show in Russia. Despite the amount of high-quality players at his disposal, there are still concerns with the defence and how the team will deal with faster, more skillful and stronger opponents.
But let us not be worried too much about that for now.
It is sad to say it, but there are far better German goalkeepers than Leno right now. His last appearance at the Confed Cup was a disaster, and this was not much better. A nervy start, far from confident, and a near-post howler to present Azerbaijan with their equaliser.
Another outstanding display from the young FC Bayern right-back, the only man to play in all ten qualifiers. Provided his ninth assist with the corner for Rüdiger’s goal, sent in the cross that was collected and dispatched by Goretzka, and engineered the move that resulted in the second goal. The only thing that was missing was a goal to cap things off, but we cannot have everything. That said, he did end the match wearing the captain’s armband.
The big FC Bayern defender was shaky from the outset, but took a knock before having to make an early exit. He will get more opportunities, but can consider himself unlucky not to get a full match under his belt. Was involved in the opening goal before making way for Antonio Rüdiger after just 22 minutes.
A completely forgettable evening for the Arsenal man. Started shakily with some poor passing and positioning, and ended it by being helped off the pitch with a hamstring injury. To make matters worse, the space created for the Azerbaijanis following Mustafi’s injury was crucial in the buildup to their equaliser. Was treated while the Azerbaijan team were celebrated, and was replaced by Matthias Ginter nine minutes before the break.
Was slightly suspect at the start with a number of misplaced passes, but gradually worked his way into the game. Was excellent in the second half with his distribution, and capped off a fine evening with his first international goal. And what a cracker it was.
If Leon Goretzka missed the boat against Northern Ireland, he took command of the ship’s bridge in Kaiserslautern. The Schalke 04 man’s first goal was the product of sublime skill and innovation, and his second was the result of intelligent positioning and calm execution. Nigh on perfect.
An inconsistent showing from the rosy-cheeked Bayer Leverkusen winger, who continues to be unconvincing in the Nationaltrikot. He had his moments and provided the crucial assist for the second goal, but it there were more misses than hits. Heavy touches on the ball and a number of poor passes defined what was a pretty ordinary performance. Would have probably been subbed off were it not for the earlier enforced changes.
Captain for a sixth time, Müller slotted into a familiar role of engineer and facilitator, working well with those around him especially Lars Stindl. Was a constant thorn in the flesh of the Azerbaijan defence, and was unlucky not to end his barren goalless spell. Made way for Amin Younes with twenty minutes left on the clock.
A mixed bag for the Manchester winger. Was fast down the left flank and was a menacing threat all evening, but was guilty of more than one missed opportunity when in sight of goal. On the plus side, he continually turned the opposition inside out, and created the fourth goal for Goretzka with a lovely run to the byline and smart cutback.
The Borussia Mönchengladbach captain was more solid rather than spectacular, but played a key role in the many attacks through the middle of the pitch. Combined effectively with Müller, and was unlucky not to get on the scoreboard when a lovely left-footed shot smacked against the base of the post.
Hit the post early on and could have been a little sharper in the first half, but showed just how effective he can be with a typical big striker’s goal that restored Germany’s lead in the second half. Worked hard and held the ball up well, and continues to stake a claim for a spot in the World Cup squad. His goal was his fifth in five successive matches – extending his record of four in four set in the previous match.
Replaced the unfortunate Süle after 22 minutes, and slotted safely into the defensive line. Could arguably have done a little better in preventing Sheydaev’s equaliser, but was far more solid in the second half. Rounded off what was a satisfactory evening with his first international goal.
Replaced Mustafi after 36 minutes, and turned out a solid performance. Ginter will never be a spectacular player, but his passing was decent and his positioning more than adequate. Was called into action right at the end, effecting an excellent clearance off the line.
Replaced Müller after 70 minutes, and was quickly into the action. Was unable to make any telling impact.
Leno (5), Kimmich (2), Süle (4), Mustafi (5), Can (3), Goretzka (2), Brandt (4), Müller (3), Sané (3), Stindl (3), Wagner (3). Substitutes (until 60 mins): Rüdiger (4), Ginter (3)
Leno (4.5), Kimmich (2.5), Süle (NR), Mustafi (4.5), Can (3), Goretzka (1.5), Brandt (3.5), Müller (3.5), Sané (3.5), Stindl (3.5), Wagner (2.5). Substitutes (until 60 mins): Rüdiger (4), Ginter (3)
Leno (5), Kimmich (2), Süle (4), Mustafi (5), Can (3), Goretzka (2), Brandt (4), Müller (3), Sané (3), Stindl (3), Wagner (2.5). Substitutes (until 60 mins): Rüdiger (3), Ginter (3)