The last month has just flown by, and the next World Cup qualifying round is upon us. Last month the Nationalmannschaft picked up maximum points against the Faroe Islands and Austria, but this week’s double-header promises to be far more testing with a potential banana-skin tie in the Republic of Ireland (12th October) and a home fixture in Berlin against consistently solid Sweden (16th October).
The past month has not been kind to Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw, with four members of what seemed to be a pretty consistent squad being ruled out injured and a fifth, skipper Philipp Lahm, suspended for the match in Dublin against the Irish.
Promising Schalke 04 youngster Julian Draxler had been on the fringe of the side, but a run of excellent performances would be brought to a sudden end – in his club’s Champions’ League fixture against Montpellier, the teenager would fall awkwardly and break his arm. Draxler’s withdrawal would be quickly be followed by Borussia Dortmund duo Mats Hummels and İlkay Gündoğan, while Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s Lars Bender would become the fourth casualty in the last days before the squad announcement.
While the coach has not named direct replacement for two of the three injured midfielders in his trimmed-down squad of twenty – which sees the welcome return of Bastian Schweinsteiger – Hummels’ withdrawal has seen the somewhat surprise return of Hamburger SV skipper Heiko Westermann, whose last appearance in the Nationaltrikot came in November 2010 – in a friendly against Sweden.
While Lahm looks set to lead the side out against the Swedes, veteran Miroslav Klose – again picked as the sole striker with Mario Gómez still struggling to recover from injury – will be expected to be wearing the captain’s armband in Dublin.
Manuel Neuer (Bayern München, 33 Apps/0 Goals)
Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96, 2/0)
Marc-André ter Stegen (Borussia Mönchengladbach, 2/0)
Holger Badstuber (FC Bayern München, 28/1)
Jérôme Boateng (FC Bayern München, 26/0)
Benedikt Höwedes (FC Schalke 04, 9/1)
Philipp Lahm (FC Bayern München, 93/5)
Per Mertesacker (Arsenal FC, 82/1)
Marcel Schmelzer (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 8/0)
Heiko Westermann (Hamburger SV, 24/3)
Mario Götze (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 18/3)
Sami Khedira (Real Madrid CF, 35/2)
Toni Kroos (FC Bayern München, 32/2)
Thomas Müller (FC Bayern München, 35/10)
Mesut Özil (Real Madrid CF, 41/12)
Lukas Podolski (Arsenal FC, 103/44)
Marco Reus (BV 09 Borussia Dortmund, 11/3)
André Schürrle (Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 18/7)
Bastian Schweinsteiger (FC Bayern München, 95/23)
Miroslav Klose (SS Lazio, 124/64)
A Little History
The Mannschaft have a positive record against both of their upcoming opponents, but the records are fairly tight.
The Republic of Ireland have surprisingly proved to be consistently awkward in the previous sixteen matches between the two sides, with the Germans winning seven and the Irish five, with four draws. The two sides found themselves drawn together for the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign: the Germans would prevail by a single goal in Stuttgart courtesy of a deflected Lukas Podolski strike, and the return fixture at Dublin’s Croke Park – almost five years ago to the day – would see a rather tedious goalless draw.
While Germany’s record against the Irish is not fantastic, all of their four defeats have taken place in friendly encounters. After a series of thirteen friendlies the two teams would meet competitively for the first time in the FIFA World Cup in 2002, with the obdurate Irish cancelling out a Miroslav Klose strike with a last-gasp Robbie Keane equaliser; this would be followed by the two Euro 2008 qualifiers.
A similar side in terms of their attitude and approach, Sweden have also proved to be tough adversaries over the years – with the Germans holding the marginally better record. There have been thirty-four meetings between the two countries, with Germany winning fourteen, the Swedes thirteen (including a penalty shootout win in Berlin in 1988) and seven draws.
While the overall records are tightly contested, the figures are slightly deceptive: most of Sweden’s victories had come before the Second World War, and since 1945 the record is a slightly healthier 10-5-5 in favour of the Nationalelf. The record since reunification in 1990 is even better: in the five matches that have been played, there have been four German victories and one goalless draw – this coming in the last meeting between the two sides in Göteborg in November 2010.
In competitive fixtures Germany also have the edge: even before the war when they were on the whole second-best to the Swedes, they would win when it really mattered. Since 1937 the two teams have had ten competitive meetings with Germany winning seven of them with two draws. Sweden’s sole competitive victory over the Mannschaft would come at home in the semi-final of the 1958 FIFA World Cup, which saw them defeat the then tournament holders 3-1 in what was a memorably controversial encounter.
The match will be played in Berlin, which introduces yet another interesting twist: the city has hosted three previous meetings between the two sides and Germany are still to win. The first encounter at the Grunewald-Stadion in 1923 saw the Swedes triumph 4-1, a 1-1 draw at the Olympiastadion followed in 1964, and in the last meeting in what was then West Berlin in the spring of 1988 Germany would suffer a rare penalty shootout defeat in a four-team mini tournament that also included the Soviet Union and Argentina.
Will Germany maintain their excellent competitive record against the Blågult? Or will the Berlin hoodoo throw a spanner into the works?