Just over ten years ago, Joachim Löw was just starting out in his career as the German Nationaltrainer. His first qualifying campaign was for the 2008 Euros, and this would include the Mannschaft’s first-ever meeting with San Marino, a term that had hardly set the footballing world alight since their arrival on the international stage. That day would see something special, as Germany racked up a record 13-0 victory against their hapless opponents.
The San Marino team may have improved marginally over the last decade, but the gulf between their collection of amateurs drawn from the nether reaches of the Italian league and Germany’s superstars is arguably one of the biggest in European football. In a total of 137 international matches, the small republic have just the one victory – a 1-0 friendly victory against fellow minnows Liechtenstein in 2004 – and four draws to go with 132 defeats. In these 137 contests, the San Marinese have conceded a staggering 591 goals – more than four per game.
Germany may not repeat their double-digit goal glut of 2006, but they will be expecting to at least put half a dozen past tonight’s opponents as they look to ramp up their goal difference en route to the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018.
Germany have scored eight goals and conceded none in racking up a maximum nine points from their three qualifying matches so far; San Marino, by contrast, have scored one and conceded nine – not bad compared to their past record. Indeed, they were level at 1-1 against with just thirteen minutes remaining against Norway in Oslo, and for a while there was some threat of a genuine shock… Until the Norwegians scored three times in the space of six minutes to seal a flattering 4-1 win.
It is a wet evening in Serravalle, and Joachim Löw has made five changes to the team that beat Northern Ireland in Hannover. Marc-André ter Stegen replaces Manuel Neuer in goal, İlkay Gündoğan makes a start, and Mario Gómez is back in the team after missing out on the last two qualifiers through injury. In Neuer’s absence, Sami Khedira takes the captain’s armband.
There are two debutants in the starting eleven: Bayer Leverkusen teenager Benjamin Henrichs continues his meteoric rise up the international ranks, and Werder Bremen’s Olympic star Serge Gnabry also makes his first appearance at senior level. While Neuer is given a day off, Mesut Özil and Julian Draxler are both rested, while Jérôme Boateng and Toni Kroos have both had to drop out of the squad through injury.
1 min. The home side, all in blue, kick off. Germany are sporting their new Confederations Cup kit, a traditional-looking white effort with a watermark based on the famous green kit from the 1990 World Cup semi-final. The colour combination is back to the usual white/black/white too.
3 mins. Henrichs has a shot at goal, and San Marino ‘keeper Aldo Simoncini collects. One feelsthat it is going to be a busy night for Simoncini, who was also between the sticks for the 13-0 defeat a decade earlier.
5 mins. It has been a bright start for the two young debutants. Right-back Henrichs this time plays the ball for Gnabry, whose slightly cuffed effort is gathered by Simoncini.
7 mins. Gündoğan dinks the ball over a crowd of blue shirts into the opposition box, and Khedira smartly collects. The big number six shows lovely control as he dances past a defender and then the ‘keeper before rolling the ball into the net with his left foot. Has the avalanche started? 1-0.
9 mins. There’s complete pandemonium in the San Marino box, and the Mannschaft are two up. Gómez’s shot is pushed out by Simoncini, and the keeper’s twin brother Davide makes a complete hash of things as he looks to complete the clearance. The ball falls to Gnabry, who sends a smart right-footed effort into the bottom right-hand corner to score a nice debut goal. 2-0.
10 mins. Gómez runs at the defence and chips in a smart curling cross, but it just a little too far in front of Gnabry. So close to a second in as many minutes for the Bremen man.
13 mins. The men in white are in complete control now, and it is now an exercise in patience as they look for a third goal.
15 mins. Henrichs wins Germany’s first corner of the evening. Quickly followed by a second. Jonas Hector floats it in, Mats Hummels gets there first, but his gently looping header is easy for Simoncini.
18 mins. Gnabry is allowed to run at the opposition defence, and he hammers are right-footed effort wide.
21 mins. San Marino win a corner, and should be finding the back of the net. Khedira gets a head to it, but the ball floats past a couple of blue-shirted attackers. Germany clear the danger, and normal service is resumed.
25 mins. The rain is still coming down, but the home team are just about keeping things respectable.
26 mins. Gómez has a half-chance but miskicks, and a Henrichs shot is hit straight at a defender. The Mannschaft win a free-kick out on the left, and Gündoğan’s effort is punched clear by the ‘keeper. The Man City man has a second bite, but his shot flies over the target.
31 mins. Hector sends in a good cross from the left, but Simoncini gets there ahead of Gómez.
32 mins. More lovely moves from the Germans, and Mario Götze unlocks the San Marino defence after collecting a neat pass from Gündoğan. The World Cup winner send the ball through for Hector, whose left foot finds the bottom right-hand corner of the net. 3-0.
35 mins. Henrich’s pace and Götze’s nimble feet create more space in the San Marino box, but Thomas Müller’s shot (was it a shot?) flies harmlessly towards the touchline. The Bayern man still cannot find his shooting boots.
37 mins. Gnabry has another shot which is deflected behind. There’s a half-chance from the corner, but the men in blue manage to clear their lines.
38 mins. Müller has time to set his sights on goal, and Simoncini pushes his shot over the crossbar. The corner begets another, and Khedira cannot find his feet. The ball is cleared, but only to another white shirt as the next patient attack is set in motion.
42 mins. Götze takes the ball in the middle of the park, has a run towards the edge of the penalty area, and fires in a shot straight at a blue shirt.
43 mins. It looks like goal number four, but Müller’s effort is ruled out for offside. Der Raumdeuter was clearly behind a blue shirt as the ball was played inside by Gómez, but was marginally in front when the initial pass was played. One of those cases where he had not been interfering with play, but, as the Sky Sports commentator interestingly points out, “morally offside”.
45+1 mins. Gómez sweeps the ball home, but the flag is raised again. This time the decision is clear and correct. The half-time whistle is blown.
A solid show after a wet and windy forty-five minutes, and three goals to the good. It has been a completely-one sided game with the Mannschaft having over eight percent of the possession, and San Marino have their goalkeeper to thank for keeping the scoreboard under control. Both debutants have started well, ter Stegen could have set up a bed and gone for a nap behind his goal, and there will surely be more goals in the second half.
46 mins. Germany get the second half underway.
50 mins. Jogi Löw’s team have picked up where they left off at the end of the first half, as they quickly take control of the pitch again.
52 mins. Germany are looking to thread the ball through the San Marino defence, but it’s not quite going their way. Gündoğan is fouled just outside the box.
53 mins. Gündoğan’s free kick on target, and takes the slightest of deflections before going wide. The Kazakh referee waves the German protests away and awards a goal kick. In fact, it looks like a handball.
54 mins. This time Khedira does find the right pass and Gómez has a clear sight of goal, but his shot is pretty awful. That should have been four, but instead the ball ends up on the athletics track behind the goal.
56 mins. San Marino cannot clear, Gündoğan has space at the edge of the box, but his right-footed effort floats harmlessly over the bar.
58 mins. Another lovely ball over the top of the home defence by Joshua Kimmich, and Gnabry gets there to sweep it into the net with his right foot. There is a slight whiff of offside, but this time the Mannschaft get that little bit of luck. Four goals for Germany now, two for Gnabry. 4-0.
59 mins. A change for San Marino. Marco Domeniconi is on for Luca Tosi.
60 mins. Matteo Vitaioli is booked for a clumsy challenge on Henrichs.
65 mins. Germany win a corner and take it quickly. Götze dances around in the box with the ball and draws Simoncini off his line, and the Dortmund man’s cutback from the byline finds Hector, who stabs it through the ‘keeper’s legs with the outside of his left foot. 5-0.
68 mins. San Marino front man Mattia Stefanelli makes a charge down the right after going past Hector, and gets some loud cheers from the crowd. The fun comes an end when he is forced off the ball by Hummels.
71 mins. There’s a double change from Jogi Löw now as the two Marios are called to the bench. The disappointing Gómez makes way for Kevin Volland, and Götze is replaced by Max Meyer.
73 mins. Müller finds Gnabry who has a chance to seal his hat-trick, but his shot slides wide of the far post. The offside flag saves the youngster’s embarrassment.
76 mins. This time Gnabry gets it right. Müller sends in a lovely ball over the top of the static San Marino defence, and the Bremen man beats the offside trap as he strokes the ball into the bottom right-hand corner on the volley. The opposition may not be the most stellar, but it is a lovely debut hat-trick for the youngster. 6-0.
77 mins. The third change for the visitors. Schalke 04’s Leon Goretzka replaces Khedira.
79 mins. More lovely approach play from the men in white, and the ball falls to Hector outside the box. The left-back has plenty of time and line up a hat-trick shot, but sends the ball over the crossbar. He can afford a smile.
82 mins. Volland bursts down the right and sends in a low cross. Simoncini gets a hand on it, and the unfortunate Stefanelli is left helpless as he turns it into his own net. 7-0.
83 mins. As the rain continues to come down in Serravalle, Christian Brolli is on for Tommaso Zafferani.
85 mins. Müller floats into the penalty area and cut the ball back neatly into space for Volland. The Leverkusen man is able to collect and get himself into position before sending a low left-footed shot past Simoncini. It is Volland’s first goal for the Mannschaft. 8-0.
89 mins. Who would have been the price on Germany scoring eight goals and Thomas Müller not getting on the scoreboard? The number thirteen has largely drifted out white and has provided a couple of assists, but is yet to find the target. He looks a good bet to score Germany’s ninth as he collects a pass from Hector, but his snapshot is brilliantly turned away by Simoncini.
90+1 mins. A final change for the hosts, as Matteo Vitaioli makes way for Jose Hirsch. There are going to be three minutes of additional time.
90+2 mins. Gündoğan has an effort blocked.
90+3 mins. The final whistle blows.
No double figures this time, but it has been a very professional professional display from the Mannschaft as they continue their march towards the World Cup finals.
Serge Gnabry became the first German player to score a hat-trick on debut since Dieter Müller’s legendary Dreierpack in the Euro 1976 semi-final against Yugoslavia, and elsewhere there was a smart brace from Jonas Hector and a first international goal for Kevin Volland. The youngsters kept things going on what in were unhelpful conditions, and both the team and the coach can be happy with what was a clinical display.
At the other end, Germany ‘keeper Marc-André ter Stegen may well have had the easiest ninety minutes in his professional career. He didn’t touch the ball once with his hands.
So, the competitive season ends with another victory, and Germany push onto twelve points from twelve at the top of the group table. Next up, a prestige friendly against Italy in Milan to close out 2016.
v San Marino, Stadio Olimpico, Serravalle, 11.11.2016
Khedira 7., Gnabry 9., 58., 76., Hector 32., 65., Stefanelli og 82., Volland 85. / –
Germany: ter Stegen – Kimmich, Hummels – Henrichs*, Hector – Khedira (c) (77. Goretzka), Gündoğan – Müller, Götze (71. Volland), Gnabry* – Gómez (71. Meyer)
San Marino: A. Simoncini – Palazzi, Cesarini, D. Simoncini, F. Vitaioli, M. Berardi – Gasperoni , Tosi (59. Domeniconi) – Zafferani (83. Brolli), M. Vitaioli (c) (90+1. Hirsch) – Stefanelli
Referee: Artyom Kuchin (Kazakhstan)
Assistants: Yevgeniy Belskiy, Anatoliy Khodin (Kazakhstan)
Fourth Official: Aleksander Gauzer (Kazakhstan)
Referee Observer: Shmuel Shteif (Israel)
Yellow Cards: – / Vitaioli
Red Cards: – / –
Ball Possession: 77% / 23%
Attempts on Target/Blocked: 26 / 0
Attempts off Target: 10 / 0
Corners: 17 / 1
Fouls Committed: 5 / 11
*Full international debut