After the sketchy display against the Czech Republic, much was expected of the Nationalmannschaft as they completed their penultimate World Cup qualifying group double-header against Norway in Stuttgart. The result was emphatic, as the team responded with a performance that was both confident and exhilarating. The attack that had looked so limp in Prague bristled with intent, and the Norwegians were put to the sword by a German team that was both clinical and merciless.
Six unanswered goals, which included a brace for striker Timo Werner and strikes for Mesut Özil, Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka and Mario Gómez.
Facts and Stats
Following the comprehensive 3-0 win over the Norwegians in Oslo a year before to the day, this was the fifth competitive meeting between the two countries. Germany’s record against the Scandinavians now stands at three wins, one draw and one defeat, with the one reverse coming at the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936. Overall, this was the 22nd meeting between Germany and Norway, and Germany’s fifteenth victory to go with five draws and two defeats.
The 6-0 win was the Mannschaft’s biggest win against Norway since June 1971, when Helmut Schön’s dominant team steamrollered to a 7-1 triumph at the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo. It is the biggest margin of victory on home soil, surpassing a 6-2 friendly win in October 1927 and the 5-1 win in the qualifying group for the 1954 World Cup.
In terms of personal milestones, Thomas Müller moved clear of both Andreas Brehme and Oliver Kahn on 87 caps, with Mesut Özil joining the two past legends on 86 – moving ahead of Andreas Möller. On his 71st international appearance, Mario Gómez took his goal scoring tally to 31, taking him level in thirteenth place on the all-time list with Ernst Lehner, and just one behind Klaus Fischer.
Gómez’s goal was Germany’s 150th in World Cup qualifying matches at home, in their 46th match. Overall, the Nationalelf have now played 198 World Cup matches, and will hit the 200 mark when the qualifying campaign ends against Azerbaijan in Kaiserslautern in the first week of October.
As well as extending their perfect record in Group C to eight wins from eight matches, Joachim Löw’s side have now gone unbeaten for seventeen matches, a record stretching back to their unlucky semi-final defeat against hosts France at Euro 2016.
Against the Czech Republic, Germany had a brilliant start, only to fall away dramatically. This was not the case in front of an enthusiastic Stuttgart crowd. Right from the start the home side put their foot on the pedal, and were relentless against opponents that were given little space to breathe.
The chances started to come almost immediately, and it took only ten minutes for Jonas Hector to set up Özil for the opening goal. It was Özil’s first goal in the Nationaltrikot for over a year, and the perfect response to all of his critics. Toni Kroos could have made it two just minutes later as he lashed a shot over the crossbar, and the Norwegians were already looking to batten down the hatches.
Goal number two was arguably the best of the night, a showcase of subtlety and skill. A beautiful lofted ball from Joshua Kimmich, a smart nod back by Werner, an effortless chest down and assist by the imperious Özil. Then, the final party piece: a fantastic feint, turn and left-footed shot from Julian Draxler.
Norway were by now resorting to flinging their bodies in front of every shot and making desperate blocks, while the men in white shirts passed the ball around the length and width of the pitch for fun. Against the Czechs, the weight of possession had produced very few opportunities; in Stuttgart, everything would fall perfectly into place. The transformation was incredible. From sluggish to sharp, from dull as ditch water to dynamic and dangerous. What a difference a few days can make.
For goals three and four, it was the Tommy and Timo show. First, a cute back flick from der Raumdeuter followed by the easiest of left-footed finishes for the RB Leipzig striker. Then, the perfect cross and a well-directed header. Two more showcase goals, and Germany were are away and clear by half-time. It could easily have been six or seven, but the crowd were happy enough.
I found myself struggling to keep up with my minute-by-minute report because so much was happening, while the DFB’s Twitter account was working overtime in churning out goalscorer graphics.
The start of the second half saw Müller replaced by Goretzka, and there was an obvious downtick in the tempo. Not that it stopped the substitute from getting on the scoreboard himself after less than five minutes. All of the first four goals could have been put in a training video, and the fifth was no different. The approach play was simple, and the execution perfect. Draxler with another piece of skill on the ball to embarrass his leaden-footed Norwegian marker, and the perfect cross for Goretzka to head home with consummate ease.
The introduction of both Sami Khedira and Gómez were nice moments for the the Stuttgart crowd, and the big striker gave them more to cheer about with a magnificent sixth. This time, patience was the key. Having held the ball for what seemed like an age, the ball was pushed out to Kimmich on the right, and it was the FC Bayern youngster’s turn to send in the killer ball. Cue Gómez to dive, almost Klinsmannesque, to send the ball past poor Norwegian ‘keeper Rune Jarstein.
Norway had been well and truly put to the sword, but in only conceding six, they can at least claim to have a better defence than Brazil.
Conclusions and Ratings
Prague had provided a crucial wake-up call, and this was the response. Whatever was said by Jogi Löw, it worked. And how. This was the Germany we all wanted to see. Patient on and off the ball; dominant, smooth, and clinical in front of goal. Norway may not have been the most testing of opponents, but it is fair to say that the Czechs had not been that great either. It is not just about who you are playing, but how you execute the plan.
The German defence had little or nothing to do, and by the end of the second half almost everybody was having a foray forward and taking a potshot at the Norwegian goal. Confidence was brimming, no more so than for Timo Werner, who with every game is looking more like the finished article. He has six goals in eight matches already, and will be looking to add more as the World Cup approaches. Hopefully, a lot more.
With regard to team selection, the coach had got it spot on. The weak points in Prague were identified and addressed, not just with the approach and tactics, but the personnel. The replacement of the wobbly Matthias Ginter with Antonio Rüdiger brought additional steel and more order to the defensive unit. While Lars Stindl had been busy but ineffective against the Czechs, Sebastian Rudy provided the same energy, but added application and patience. Further up the pitch, the delightfully twinkle-toed Draxler was light years ahead of the sticky-footed Julian Brandt.
All of those who were benched will surely look to work and train harder, which can only be good for the overall health of the squad. We all know that the Nationaltrainer has so many wonderful resources to work with, and the key to the entire project is getting the best out of those that want it most. Ginter, Stindl and Brandt will surely be looking to up their game ahead of the next round of internationals in early October.
Against the Czech Republic, the team got the right result. Against Norway, they got the right result in style. While three points will always be three points, every follower of the Nationalmannschaft can be agreed that one is much nicer to watch than the other.
Despite their collecting every point on offer so far, the job is quite quite done yet. Northern Ireland’s 2-0 defeat of the Czech Republic keeps them in with the slimmest of mathematical chances of finishing top of the group, and there will be everything to play for in Belfast next month.
Marc-André ter Stegen
An easy night for the Barcelona ‘keeper, who quite literally had nothing to do for most of the ninety minutes against a toothless Norwegian attack. A punch here, a soft catch there… That was about it.
An excellent outing for the young right-back, who has really grown into the role. Was making the running all evening, and delivered a pinpoint cross to set up Mario Gómez for the sixth goal.
Brought in to replace the suspect Matthias Ginter, the new Chelsea centre-back brought plenty of solidity to the defensive unit. Did what he had to to defensively, and was adventurous going forward.
No winning goal this time for the FC Bayern centre-back. With not much to do against such weak opposition, he was able to venture forward and enjoy the evening.
After his flat and somewhat disappointing display against the Czechs, this more like the Hector we all know. Busy all evening, and creating plenty of space behind the Norwegian defence. Created the opening goal for Mesut Özil with a smart cutback.
Came in for Lars Stindl in the defensive midfield, and added some much needed bite. If Toni Kroos was the brains behind the two-man operation, Rudy was the beating heart. Was replaced by Sami Khedira just after the hour mark.
The man pulling the strings. An impressive outing for Kroos, who controlled the game the way he wanted to by initiating wave after wave of German attacks. After a slightly iffy game his Prague, his passing game was back to its sublime best.
A one-half outing for the skipper, but he more than made the most of it. The Raumdeuter was, well, Raumdeutering. Was a constant threat throughout, and provided two contrasting assists for Timo Werner. The first, a cheeky back flick. The second, a perfect eye-of-the-needle cross. Was replaced at half time by Leon Goretzka.
The mercurial midfield maestro has had his fair share of critics, but this was a supreme display. A stunning opening goal to kick things off, and kept things ticking over nicely as Norway were swamped. Was involved in almost everything.
Came in for the disappointing Julian Brandt, and made a massive difference to the team’s energy and movement. Skillful and unselfish, the PSG winger teased and taunted the Norwegians. Scored what was arguably the goal of the evening, and then set up Gómez for the final flourish.
After being booed by a boorish section of the German crowd in Prague, there were shouts and cheers for Werner on his return to the Mercedes-Benz-Arena. And well deserved they were, too. The RB Leipzig youngster continues to show that he is the man German football has been looking for, netting a contrasting brace. Six goals in eight games, and hopefully a lot more to come. Replaced by Mario Gómez after 66 minutes.
Replaced Müller at the start of the second half, and was immediately into the action with a well-taken headed finish. Was energetic for the remainder of the second half, and continues to stake a claim for a place in the World Cup squad.
Replaced Rudy at half time, to huge applause from the fans at his former home ground. Maintained the Mannschaft’s tight stranglehold in midfield, and picked up cleanly where Rudy had left off.
Another former VfB Stuttgart man, the big striker replaced Werner after 66 minutes. Not wanting to be outdone, Gómez notched up his 31st international goal – and Germany’s sixth – with a fantastic diving header. Super Mario is a great team player, and will certainly be looking for a slot in the final 23 come next summer.
ter Stegen (3), Kimmich (2), Rüdiger (3), Hummels (3), Hector (2), Rudy (2), Kroos (2), Müller (1), Özil (1), Draxler (1), Werner (1). Subs (Until 60 minutes): Goretzka (2).
ter Stegen (3), Kimmich (3), Rüdiger (3), Hummels (2.5), Hector (3), Rudy (3), Kroos (2), Müller (2), Özil (1), Draxler (1.5), Werner (1). Subs (Until 60 minutes): Goretzka (2.5).
ter Stegen (3), Kimmich (2), Rüdiger (3), Hummels (3), Hector (2), Rudy (1.5), Kroos (2), Müller (1), Özil (1), Draxler (1), Werner (1). Subs (Until 60 minutes): Goretzka (2).