When the draw for this qualifying group was made back in 2014, nobody would have thought it would come to this. On the tenth and final match day, World Champions Germany are still not sure of an automatic place in next year’s European Championship finals in France. Following their second defeat of the campaign against the Republic of Ireland, the Nationalmannschaft are left still needing a point in their last game against Georgia.
Records suggest that Joachim Löw’s side will win easily and claim their rightful place among the twenty-four finalists, but nothing can be taken for granted now. At the start of the campaign, no German side had ever lost to Poland. That record would come to an end in Warsaw with a disappointing 2-0 defeat. Similarly, no German side had ever been beaten by the Republic of Ireland in a full competitive international; that record would too come to an end on a bitter evening in Dublin.
Coming into this evening’s game at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig, Germany’s record against Georgia reads at four wins from four games, with ten goals scored against one conceded. On paper, there should only be one result, the win that will maintain the Nationalelf’s position at the top of the group table.
The permutations are simple. Even with the worst case scenario, Germany have secured a top three spot which guarantees at least a place in the play-offs. Should the unthinkable happen, a draw between second-placed Poland the third-placed Republic of Ireland will see the Mannschaft shunted down into third place. A draw will secure an automatic place in France, but a win for either the Poles or Irish in Warsaw will see Germany not finish first in any qualifying group since the 2002 World Cup campaign where they finished second behind England.
It is not about just securing a point though. After the disappointment in Dublin, the coach and his team will be looking to finish what has at times been a traumatic campaign in style.
There’s just one change to the starting eleven with André Schürrle taking the place of the injured Mario Götze, while skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger is again on the bench as Manuel Neuer wears the captain’s armband. The home side are in their all-white ensemble – possibly for the last time before their new Trikot is unveiled, while Georgia are in all red. It’s a cool and dry evening in Leipzig as the teams line up for the national anthems.
1 min. The visitors get things under way.
2 mins. Thomas Müller gets the first shot on target after a neat chest-down at the edge of the penalty area, but Georgian ‘keeper Nukri Revishvili parries.
5 mins. It has been an energetic start for the visitors, who are chasing after every ball at the moment. Valeri Kazaishvili has a speculative shot that flies well over the target.
8 mins. Marco Reus is clipped some twenty-five yards out and Germany win a free-kick. It’s a clever training ground move as Toni Kroos dinks it into the box for Müller, who can’t quite get enough on the ball as he slices it wide.
10 mins. Georgia are caught in possession and the men in white stream up the field. Ilkay Gündoğan has a sweetly-timed effort that is well stopped by Revishvili.
11 mins. An even better save from Revishvili as he turns a well struck Reus shot behind. The resulting corner comes to nothing.
13 mins. Another brilliant move, followed by a finish that has defined Germany’s football during this campaign. After a series of beautiful passed the Georgian defence is carved wide open, and with the goal at his mercy Reus blasts the ball high over the bar.
14 mins. Germany win a second corner, but Reus’s kick is poor and easily cleared.
16 mins. Mesut Özil threads a low ball into the box towards Reus, but the Dortmund man can’t collect it cleanly and the visitors clear their lines.
17 mins. A very familiar pattern is emerging. Plenty of neat moves, good possession and general dominance, but questionable work in the final third. Reus gets in another shot from distance but it is easy for Revishvili.
20 mins. If football was all about neat touches and intricate passing, Germany would have already won this game by now. As it stands, the score is still 0-0. Meanwhile the action has already picked up in Warsaw, with the Republic of Ireland quickly cancelling out an early Polish lead.
22 mins. Reus works his way down the left and sends a ball into the box, and there are shouts for handball. The Czech referee waves play on. A good decision is the defender clearly chests the ball down.
24 mins. Kroos wins another corner and takes the kick himself. Georgia clear their lines but Germany quickly reestablish their attack. Mats Hummels challenges Revishvili for the ball but the Georgian ‘keeper has control as the central defender slides in.
26 mins. It’s Özil’s turn to have a shot, but Revishvili dives to his left and collects.
27 mins. Out of nothing Georgia get their first shot on target, and Neuer is forced into the best save of the evening so far as he keeps out –‘s effort after Kazaishvili gets behind the German defence to deliver a crisp low cross. The corner is cleared.
30 mins. Gündogan threads the ball neatly into the Georgian penalty area and Reus is again in on goal, but screws his shot wide. Germany have now had a dozen attempts on goal to their opponents’ two, but Neuer has had to make the best save of the game.
32 mins. Müller is brought down and the referee plays the advantage, and then Kroos is fouled. Giorgi Navalovsky is booked for the first challenge and Germany are awarded the free-kick from from twenty-two yards away. Reus’s effort is on target, but his telegraphed curling effort is easily collected by Revishvili.
35 mins. It’s Reus again, smashing the ball straight at Revishvili on the volley after a delicious lobbed pass from Özil. On another night he would have scored a hat-trick and wrapped things up by now. There’s a slightly subdued atmosphere in the ground, and a few whistles from the crowd.
41 mins. Kroos has yet another shot, but there’s no real power on it and Revishvili gathers it easily.
42 mins. Another corner for the Mannschaft, and the same predictable result it is overhit.
43 mins. Schürrle is behind the Georgian defence and slices a shot across the target, but is flagged for offside. Meanwhile Poland take the lead in Warsaw, which puts the Poles top of the group standings.
45 mins. Germany have now had eighteen shots at the Georgian goal. Somehow, the score is still 0-0. The whistle blows for half-time, followed by a few more from the crowd.
This is quickly turning into a tiresome trope. Bossing the possession, a staggering number of shots on goal, but nothing whatsoever to show for it on the scoreboard. Surely something has to give, but I remember saying that at this very same point against the Irish. As things stand Germany are heading for next year’s finals in France, but in a way nobody would have expected. Regardless of how things finish in this game, it has been one of the most hideous qualifying campaigns in a long time.
There’s a change for Georgia at half-time, as Mate Vatsadze replaces Nikoloz Gelashvili.
46 mins. Germany gets the second half underway.
50 mins. Özil looks to jink inside the box, and there’s a tired challenge from skipper Jaba Kankava. Referee Pavel Královec points to the penalty spot. Germany finally have their chance to get things going, and the reliable Müller delivers the calmest of calm finishes. 1-0.
Thomas Müller calmly slots his penalty past Georgian ‘keeper Nukri Revishvili to open the scoring.
53 mins. Neuer pulls off a flying save to deny Kvekveskiri’s ferocious effort. The corner is only half cleared by the German defence, and the ball falls perfectly for Kankava who immediately makes up for the penalty by lashing home a glorious left-footed volley. Neuer has no chance, and is left standing as the ball flies into the German net. The pressure is back on again for the home side. 1-1.
57 mins. Jérôme Boateng is caught out of position in the Georgian half, and there’s another chance for the men in red as they break quickly. Kazaishvili beats Jonas Hector before firing over the target.
60 mins. The German defence are all over the place again, as Mats Hummels fails to Ucha Lobjanidze’s cross from the right. Tornike Okriashvili has chance and hits the target, but Neuer produces another magnificent save to keep the Germans in the contest. Unbelievable.
64 mins. Hummels puts Boateng under pressure with a poor pass, who in turn almost catches Neuer out. There’s some nervy stuff going on right now.
67 mins. Substitute Vatsadze has a pop from distance as Georgia break, but Neuer collects easily. For all Germany’s chances, the FC Bayern ‘keeper has kept his side in this game with a couple of magnificent stops.
69 mins. Reus sees another shot parried by Revishvili, who seems to be in the way of everything tonight. That said, he hasn’t had to pull off a really spectacular save.
70 mins. Gündoğan is clattered at the edge of the box and Okriashvili is booked. Özil’s free-kick floats wide of the target without troubling Revishvili.
75 mins. The whistles are getting louder now. Remember, Georgia’s FIFA world ranking is in three figures.
76 mins. Joachim Löw makes his first change as the disappointing Schürrle is replaced by Max Kruse.
77 mins. Kroos tries his luck from over thirty yards. That would have been a good drop-goal effort in a rugby match.
78 mins. Another change for the visitors as Kvekveskiri is replaced by Zurab Khizanishvili.
79 mins. Finally! A lovely through ball from Özil finds Kruse, who executes the perfect first-time finish with his left foot as he sends the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net. Revishvili has no chance as the substitute scores with his first touch of the match. 2-1.
The Georgian defenders can only watch as Substitute Max Kruse sweeps home the winner with just eleven minutes remaining.
85 mins. Another Germany attack sees another save from Revishvili. It’s not his best stop of the evening, but Özil’s effort is kept out.
88 mins. The home side are calmly passing the ball around now, as the game meanders to a close.
89 mins. Germany attack down the left, but Hector’s cross is way to strong as is floats harmlessly over the Georgian box.
90 mins. Georgia’s final change. Kazaishvili makes way for Aleksandr Kobakhidze. There’s also another replacement for Germany with Karim Bellarabi coming on for Reus. There will be three minutes of additional time.
90+2 mins. Gündogan and Özil combine nicely to set up Kruse, but this time the Wolfsburg man’s shot goes well over the bar.
90+3 mins. Hummels is booked for a silly foul on Okriashvili.
90+4 mins. The final whistle blows. The Mannschaft have done what they needed to do, but once again there are more questions than answers after another game of huff and puff against less illustrious opponents. The win is enough to secure top spot in the group, a point clear of Poland who have beaten the Republic of Ireland by the same scoreline in Warsaw.
v Georgia, Red Bull Arena (Zentralstadion), Leipzig, 11.10.2015
Müller pen 50., Kruse 79. / Kankava 53.
Germany: Neuer (c) – Ginter, Boateng, Hummels, Hector – Gündoğan, Kroos – Müller, Özil, Reus (90. Bellarabi) – Schürrle (76. Kruse)
Georgia: Revishvili – Kverkvelia, Amisulashvili, Kashia – Lobjanidze, Navalovsky – Kankava (c), Kvekveskiri (78. Khizanishvili) – Kazaishvili (90. Kobakhidze), Okriashvili – Gelashvili (46. Vatsadze)
Referee: Pavel Královec (Czech Republic)
Assistants: Roman Slysko (Slovakia), Martin Wilczek (Czech Republic)
Goal Line Assistants: Petr Ardeleanu (Czech Republic), Michal Patak (Czech Republic)
Fourth Official: Tomáš Mokrusch (Czech Republic)
Yellow Cards: Hummels / Navalovsky, Okriashvili, Revishvili
Red Cards: – / –
Ball Possession: 66% / 34%
Attempts on Target: 19 / 5
Attempts off Target: 7 / 3
Corners: 9 / 3
Fouls Committed: 6 / 9