Having picked up the expected maximum six points from their last two qualifiers against Austria and the Faroe Islands, the Nationalmannschaft would leave themselves on the brink of securing top spot in the group, with just a point needed against the Republic of Ireland in Köln, with the final encounter in Stockholm against Sweden to follow.
Last month’s encounters delivered six goals and perhaps more crucially two clean sheets, but there would still be plenty of questions to be answered. The team would at times look sluggish and poor in front of goal, and far from a side that might hope to threaten more fancied rivals such as Argentina, holders Spain and hosts Brazil at next year’s gathering in South America.
Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw has named a twenty-two man squad for this month’s double-header, with no massive surprises. As before, these changes have been forced by injuries to key players – with the strike force pared down to just one man in Max Kruse following injuries to Miroslav Klose and Mario Gómez.
In goal, the same three who made the previous squad are named, with Manuel Neuer expected to play both games, while the list of names in defence is cut from seven down to six with the absence of the injured Marcel Schmelzer. The missing Borussia Dortmund left-back may force the coach into readjusting the line-up, either with Benedikt Höwedes coming in a direct replacement of skipper Philipp Lahm shifting sides – which could be an interesting development in the light of his being reinvented as a midfielder by new FC Bayern München coach Pep Guardiola.
There is little change to the midfield either, with the only change from the previous squad being the absent Lukas Podolski. With the Arsenal man’s absence Bayer Leverkusen’s Sidney Sam gets another chance to impress, and following his successful integration into the squad at Chelsea André Schürrle will also be looking at getting some serious time out on the pitch in the Schwarz und Weiß. Having suffered an injury last time around just after the squad had been named, Mario Götze is also in the squad, even though he is yet to work his way into the starting line-up at Bayern.
Up front one can find only Kruse, which is somewhat surprising as someone like TSG 1899 Hoffenheim’s Kevin Volland might have been given a go.
Germany’s record against the Republic of Ireland is surprisingly unimpressive, with eight wins, four draws and five defeats from seventeen encounters. However all of these defeats have been in friendly matches, with the Mannschaft having a far more formidable record of two wins and two draws in competitive contests. The last of these wins would of course come in Dublin when Löw’s side would take their opponents to the cleaners with a 6-1 victory, and while it would be hoping too much to expect a repeat performance the Germans would be expected to win comfortably on their home patch to secure their ticket to Brazil.
With nothing but their bruised pride to play for and with no full-time coach following the resignation of former FC Bayern Trainer Giovanni Trapattoni, the Irish – currently being supervised by Under-21 coach Noel King – will probably come out all guns blazing. Against such opponents, the Germans cannot afford to be complacent.
Should Germany secure their passage to Brazil with victory over the Irish, the final fixture against Sweden will be important only for record-keepers and statisticians. A win or a draw in Stockholm would ensure yet another unbeaten qualifying campaign, and would also maintain the Mannschaft’s long proud record of never having lost a World Cup qualifier away from home – a run of forty-one matches spanning almost eighty years.
In spite of the overall record between the two teams being roughly equal, Germany have not lost to the Blågult since a penalty shootout defeat in the Berlin mini tournament in 1988, and to find their last defeat in a competitive international one would have to go all the way back to the 3-1 reverse in the World Cup semi-final in 1958. In all, the Mannshchaft’s record against Sweden in competitive matches is impressive: out of eleven matches they have won seven, with three draws and the one defeat.
The history and statistics would point to a German victory, but nobody will ever forget the last meeting between the two sides in Berlin, where Jogi Löw’s side would storm into a four-goal lead only to see their brave opponents mount a furious comeback to earn a 4-4 draw.
René Adler (Hamburger SV, 12/0)
Manuel Neuer (FC Bayern München, 41/0)
Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96, 2/0)
Jérôme Boateng (FC Bayern München, 32/0)
Benedikt Höwedes (FC Schalke 04, 15/1)
Mats Hummels (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 25/1)
Marcell Jansen (Hamburger SV, 40/3)
Philipp Lahm (FC Bayern München, 101/5)
Per Mertesacker (Arsenal FC, 93/3)
Lars Bender (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 15/4)
Sven Bender (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 5/0)
Julian Draxler (FC Schalke 04, 8/1)
Mario Götze (FC Bayern München, 22/5)
Sami Khedira (Real Madrid CF, 42/3)
Toni Kroos (FC Bayern München, 37/5)
Thomas Müller (FC Bayern München, 44/16)
Mesut Özil (Real Madrid CF, 49/15)
Marco Reus (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 17/7)
Sidney Sam (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 3/0)
André Schürrle (Chelsea FC, 26/7)
Bastian Schweinsteiger (FC Bayern München, 98/23)
Max Kruse (Borussia Mönchengladbach, 3/1)