After the 1-0 friendly win against England in Dortmund, Germany resume their World Cup qualifying campaign with a trip to Azerbaijan. Having started their campaign brightly, the Azeris would come unstuck with a 4-0 defeat in Belfast against Northern Ireland, but the Mannschaft will not be underestimating a team that has continually improved over the years. Germany are hot favourites to come away with all three points, but Azerbaijan are far from the minnows they used to be.
There are seven changes from the team that triumphed in Dortmund, with only Joshua Kimmich, Mats Hummels, Jonas Hector and Toni Kroos in the starting lineup. The absence of skipper ‘keeper Manuel Neuer with a calf injury sees Bayer Leverkusen custodian Bernd Leno make a rare start, while in the back four Benedikt Höwedes returns to replace Antonio Rüdiger.
Sami Khedira returns to take the captain’s armband in the place of Julian Weigl, while Thomas Müller and André Schürrle both start after coming on as substitutes against England. Leroy Sané and Julian Brandt are back on the bench, while Lukas Podolski will be watching the game at home after his closing out his international career in style.
Up front, Timo Werner is replaced by Mario Gómez. It was always likely that the RB Leipzig youngster was going to give way to the more experienced Gómez, but a muscle injury means that rather than being on the bench he is back with his club already.
1 min. Joachim Löw’s men kick off on what looks like a fantastic surface in Baku. The Mannschaft are wearing their traditional colours of white shirts and black shorts, with the hosts in kitted out in bright blue.
3 mins. The first decent attack from the visitors, and Müller finds space inside the box on the right. His low cross is well blocked by Azerbaijan skipper Rashad Sadygov. Germany win a corner, but can do nothing with the kick.
7 mins. Schürrle looks to make a run down the left, but is halted by Mogamed Mirzabekov.
10 mins. Germany have found their passing game quickly, but the hosts have also settled down nicely. Pretty even at the moment, which will suit Azerbaijan coach Robert Prosinecki.
12 mins. Khedira gives the ball away with a sloppy pass, and as Dimitri Nazarov looks to accelerate away the German skipper takes a nibble at his ankles. The Italian referee flashes the yellow card, putting Khedira out of the next qualifier against San Marino. Which is not too much of a big deal in the wider scheme of things.
14 mins. Germany win a corner out on the right, but Kroos’s kick is easily cleared.
15 mins. Hector has a shot from distance. It is well struck, but just wide. There are no real concerns for Azerbaijan ‘keeper Kamran Agayev.
16 mins. The home side get some time on the ball and move with purpose into the German half. Afran Ismayilov’s cross is floated into the German box, but Höwedes clears easily.
18 mins. Hummels sends a low pass from inside his own half through to the advancing Khedira, who in turn finds Draxler. Draxler’s first time ball out to the left finds Hector, whose cross is perfectly delivered for Schürrle who taps it in from just inside the six yard box. Agayev gets a hand to the ball, but is unable to prevent it from nestling in the back of the net. 1-0.
André Schürrle celebrates his first goal with Thomas Müller and Julian Draxler after eighteen minutes
22 mins. Schürrle crosses from the left, and Höwedes heads the ball back into towards goal. Sadygov makes the block, but the ball falls at the feet of Kimmich who is unable to finish from a tight angle.
28 mins. The home side are finding it hard to get the ball now, and Jogi Löw’s side are moving things around nicely. They are controlling the tempo perfectly.
30 mins. Müller works hard down the right chasing what looked like a lost cause, and wins a corner out of nothing. The resulting is kick is dreadful however, and looks like a training ground exercise gone wrong. A few passes later and the ball is in the hands of Leno.
31 mins. Hector plays an awkward looping pass towards Kroos, but it is nowhere near where he wants it to be. Ismayilov seizes on the opportunity to charge forward, and he advances unchallenged down the right. A high ball across the pitch finds Nazarov at the edge of the penalty area, and with Khedira standing back the Erzgebirge Aue striker takes a step inside before sending the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the German net. Leno dives low to his left, but has no chance. 1-1.
34 mins. It is the first goal Germany have conceded in 679 minutes, and also the first of this World Cup qualifying campaign. Kimmich makes dangerous looking run towards the opposition goal, and is brought down by Sadygov just outside the box. The free-kick is awarded, but the referee keeps his hand in his pocket. The looked like a clear yellow card there.
35 mins. Kroos send the ball into the box towards Müller, but the mass of blue shirts are able to clear.
36 mins. The home side are unable to keep hold of the ball just inside their own half, and the Mannschaft gear up for another thrust forward. After dispossessing his opponent, Schürrle slips a perfectly-weighted pass for Müller to chase. The Bayern man still has plenty of work to do, but floats around the ‘keeper with ease before executing the perfect left-footed finish into the bottom right hand corner. 2-1.
Thomas Müller celebrates Germany’s second goal with Joshua Kimmich, Jonas Hector and Mario Gómez
40 mins. Their advantage restored, the Germans are again squeezing their opponents in the middle of the pitch. Controlling the play perfectly while patiently waiting to strike.
42 mins. The Azeris get the ball into the German half, and Ismayilov sends a shot into the side netting. At the other end of the pitch the Mannschaft win their seventh corner, but again are unable to turn into anything more.
45 mins. Another patient buildup. Pass after pass after pass. A well-timed ball from Höwedes finds the advancing Kimmich on the right, and the youngster’s high floated cross from just inside the right touchline is superbly finished by Gómez who is lurking at the edge of the six-yard box. The big striker positions himself perfectly to send a well-placed looping header into the far corner, and well beyond the reach of Agayev who can only watch. 3-1.
Mario Gómez rises above two Azeri defenders to put the Mannschaft 3-1 up just before half time
Azerbaijan have been competitive and scored a great goal to break Germany’s long clean sheet streak, but Jogi Löw’s side have managed things superbly. Three-well crafted goals see them into the break with a comfortable lead, and it is safe to say that barring a complete catastrophe they will be heading back to Germany with a perfect five wins out of five.
46 mins. The hosts get things restarted.
50 mins. No great opportunities, but the game appears to have picked up where it left off in the first half. Germany passing the ball around nicely, and Azerbaijan busting a collective gut to keep themselves in the context and take something more out of it.
56 mins. Schürrle gets into a great position just inside the Azeri box after collecting Müller’s pass. The Dortmund man’s shot is on target, but takes a deflection behind. Once again, there’s nothing much to say about the resulting corner.
59 mins. Another German attack sees Kimmich wins another corner. It is played short, and Schürrle fashions a shooting chance from the edge of the penalty area that flies well over the target.
61 mins. The first change of the evening from Jogi Löw. Mario Gómez is off, and Mesut Özil is on. With the specialist striker off, one of Müller or Schürrle should assume the position of the number nine. These days it doesn’t really mean much, but Schürrle is wearing the shirt. Or we might just see a front three with Müller on the right, Schürrle on the left and Özil in the middle.
65 mins. Since their goal Azerbaijan haven’t really threatened Leno in the German goal, but they are still chasing hard and making a game of it. They look to create something in the German half, but the men in white shirts are too well-drilled.
67 mins. There’s a change for the Azeris as Ramil Sherdaev is replaced by Deniz Yilmaz.
68 mins. Within seconds of coming on, Yilmaz wins a corner. Ismayilov’s kick is far better than anything Germany have produced so far, but there’s nobody there to turn the situation into a threatening one.
73 mins. After seeing the home team have a bit of the ball, it’s back to the controlled passing game from the Mannschaft.
75 mins. Khedira makes a run through the middle towards the opposition goal, but is unable to maintain control of the ball.
76 mins. The German skipper has the ball out in the right just inside the box, and sends a low shot looking to catch Agayev out. The ‘keeper does well and collects.
78 mins. There is still plenty of energy being shown by the home team, and another goal from them could make things interesting. They are now seeing plenty of the ball, but are unable to create anything in the final third.
81 mins. Kroos and Özil initiate another patient buildup, and a great ball from Kroos finds the alert Hector to his left. The 1. FC Köln left-back sends a sharp low cutback into the box, where Schürrle is lurking by the penalty spot. The number nine has plenty of time to cushion the ball before smashing it into the roof of the net with his right boot. 4-1.
Schürrle slams home his second and Germany’s fourth goal ten minutes from time
82 mins. Another change for Prosinecki’s side, with Ismayilov making way for Ruslan Gurbanov.
84 mins. The visitors make their second change of the evening. Leroy Sané is on for Draxler. Höwedes meanwhile is booked for an earlier wrestling bout with Yilmaz.
86 mins. Kimmich’s cross is touched on by Agayev, and Schürrle can’t quite turn it into a shooting chance. The ball goes off for a German corner.
87 mins. The home side make their final switch, with Rahid Amirguliyev making way for Eduard Silvestre Pascual Israfilov, better known as Eddy. Kroos takes the German corner, which again comes to nothing.
89 mins. Sebastian Rudy gets a couple of minutes game time, with Kroos making way.
90 mins. There will be three minutes of additional time.
90+3 mins. The game has slowed right down now, and it looks like both teams are not looking for anything more. The final whistle is blown.
A well-drilled Azerbaijan team put up some stout resistance, but four excellent goals were enough to see Germany through to another three-point haul and maintain their charge towards next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.
Despite having seen their long clean sheet record broken, Jogi Löw and his team can be happy with a performance that was solidly professional with just enough flashes of genius. Both teams played their part in what was an entertaining game to watch, and Azerbaijan can surely mount a decent challenge for second place in the group with more performances like that.
Despite poor club form, a number of players continue to excel in the Nationaltrikot. André Schürrle has struggled to get into the Dortmund team this season, but scored two excellent goals to take his international tally up to twenty-two in fifty-seven games. Thomas Müller has struggled in front of goal for Bayern, but executed the perfect finish that makes one wonder if his Bundesliga drought is just a figment of the imagination. He is now up to thirty-seven goals for Germany, now level with Oliver Bierhoff on the all-time list.
Then there’s Mario Gómez, who also keeps his eye on the all-time top goalscorers list with his thirtieth strike in his seventieth international. Clearly, the Maharishi Jogi is doing something right.
There is now a bit of a break until the next international outing, a friendly against Denmark on 6th June followed by the next World Cup qualifier against San Marino four days later.
v Azerbaijan, Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium, Baku, 26.03.2017
Schürrle 19., 80., Müller 35., Gómez 44. / Nazarov 30.
Germany: Leno – Kimmich, Höwedes, Hummels, Hector – Kroos (89. Rudy), Khedira (c) – Müller, Draxler (84. Sané), Schürrle – Gómez (61. Özil)
Azerbaijan: Agayev – Mirzabekov, B. Hüseynov, Sadygov (c), Pashayev – Qarayev – Ismayilov (82. Gurbanov), Amirguliyev (87. Eddy), C. Hüseynov, Nazarov – Sheydaev (67. Yilmaz)
Referee: Daniele Orsato (Italy)
Assistants: Mauro Tonolini (Italy), Riccardo Di Fiore (Italy)
Fourth Official: Marco Guida (Italy)
FIFA Referee Assessor: Aleksei Spirin (Russia)
Yellow Cards: Khedira, Höwedes / –
Red Cards: – / –
Ball Possession: 48% / 52%
Attempts on Target: 9 / 5
Attempts off Target: 2 / 2
Corners: 10 / 2
Fouls Committed: 9 / 6