Following the disappointing semi-final defeat to old rivals Italy at Euro 2012, Joachim Löw’s German side would get back to the business of qualifying for the next major tournament, with another interesting but on paper not massively testing group.
The Nationalmannschaft would be joined once again by neighbours Austria and outsiders Kazakhstan, while the dangerous Sweden, the always tough to beat Republic of Ireland and the minnows from the Faroe Islands would make up the six-team Group C.
While Germany were expected to qualify easily, nobody was underestimating their opponents: Sweden may not have been as good a side as that of the 1990s but would still present a stiff challenge, Austria would always play with the spirit of Córdoba 1978 and the Irish were known battlers. Kazakhstan meanwhile would be looking to improve and the Faroes were arguably one of the more awkward of the lower-ranked teams in the competition – and a side that had given the Germans a good run for their money during the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign.
The opening match against the Faroes in Hannover would see Löw’s side emerge with a solid if workmanlike 3-0 win with the opposition proving to be just as awkward as predicted: the Germans would just have the one goal ten minutes into the second half, and two second-half strikes would ease the nerves as another qualifying roadshow got underway.
Germany’s opening win was followed by a tight 2-1 win over Austria in Vienna – the only time they would fail to score at least three goals during the ten-game campaign – and a crushing 6-1 win over the Irish in Dublin would send the Mannschaft clear at the top of the group. Things would all look all set for another goal-fest as Sweden were put to the sword in Berlin, but an amazing comeback from the Scandinavians that saw the Mannschaft throw away a four-goal lead for the first time in their history would blot the team’s copybook somewhat.
The 4-4 draw was just the sharp nudge the team needed, and as the campaign rolled on there would be no further scares. Greater emphasis would be placed on the defence, and while the goals continued to come there would be a more workmanlike feel about many of the victories. Kazkakhstan would be dispatched 3-0 and 4-1 in a double header that saw the German team travel to the nether reaches of Central Asia and back, while the final run-in would see three very similar three-goal wins over Austria, the Faroes and the Irish. All three games would see the Löw’s side dominate possession and go in just a goal ahead at half-time, before wrapping things up with two second-half strikes.
With top spot and automatic qualification having been secured with the 3-0 win over the Irish in Köln, the final match at Solna’s new Friends Arena against the Swedes – by then safely in second place and the play-offs – would be a highly entertaining affair. Germany’s long and proud unbeaten record in World Cup qualifiers would be briefly under threat as they fell two goals behind just before half-time in Solna, but a stunning comeback inspired by an André Schürrle hat-trick would see them take the game 5-3 and end the group on a high.
In their ten matches Germany would score thirty-six goals – the most by any side in the UEFA qualifying groups and three more than their previous record set during the 1982 World Cup qualifying campaign. It would be the Mannschaft’s third unbeaten qualifying campaign in succession, and the win in Sweden would be their twenty-ninth victory in an unbeaten run of thirty-two matches, a record that stretched back to October 2007. The top goal scorer would be Mesut Özil with eight, followed by Marco Reus on five and four players with four goals: Mario Götze, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Müller and André Schürrle.
Detailed minute-by-minute reports of all of the games are available on the News Blog. To view each individual blog report, just click on the “article” icon to the right of the score.
v Faroe Islands, AWD-Arena, Hannover, 07.09.2012
Team: Neuer – Lahm (c), Hummels, Mertesacker, Badstuber – Khedira – Müller (68. Schürrle), Özil, Götze (87. Draxler), Reus – Klose (75. Podolski)
1-0 Mats Hummels picks out Mario Götze, who swivels beautifully between two defenders before dribbling into the box and sliding the ball with his right foot low into the left of the Faroese net and past ‘keeper Gunnar Nielsen from around fifteen yards.
2-0 Germany break swiftly as Sami Khedira comes away with the ball and finds Mesut Özil. The number eight charges forward into the opposition half and finds Thomas Müller on the right, and the Bayern man works his way past his marker and sends the ball back into the box. Having continued his run, Özil strokes the ball into the net with his left foot from around eight yards.
3-0 Marco Reus pounces on a mistake just inside the opposition half, and weaves forward before finding Özil, who almost strolls between two defenders before bundling the ball past Nielsen.
v Austria, Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Wien, 11.09.2012
Team: Neuer – Lahm (c), Hummels, Badstuber, Schmelzer – Khedira, Kroos – Müller, Özil, Reus (46. Götze) – Klose (75. Podolski)
1-0 Austria are caught flat-footed by a neat German move, as Marco Reus is put through on the left by Mesut Özil. The young winger weaves inside, beats defender Emanuel Pogatetz and unleashes a delicate shot with his right foot. ‘Keeper Robert Almer gets a hand on the ball but is unable to prevent it from skidding inside his right post.
2-0 Thomas Müller is bundled over just inside the Austrian penalty area, and the penalty is awarded. Özil steps up, and smartly sends the kick to low Almer’s right with a sweet left-footed strike. The ‘keeper dives the right way, but the kick is just too good for him.
2-1 Austrian winger Marko Arnautović bustles past Mario Götze and the static Marcel Schmelzer, and makes his way to the byline before expertly cutting the ball back into the danger zone. There to meet it is the sliding Zlatko Junuzović, who bundles it in past Neuer.
v Republic of Ireland, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, 12.10.2012
Team: Neuer – Boateng, Mertesacker, Badstuber, Schmelzer – Khedira (46. Kroos), Schweinsteiger (c) – Müller, Özil, Reus (66. Podolski) – Klose (72. Schürrle)
1-0 After some good close possession play on the left, Bastian Schweinsteiger flicks the ball into the box where it is picked up by Marcel Schmelzer, who chests the ball down nicely before mis-kicking. Defender Aiden McGeady fails to clear, and Marco Reus breezes in to skip past his marker and lift the ball neatly over ‘keeper Keiren Westwood and in off the underside of the crossbar with his right foot.
2-0 Schmelzer wins a defensive challenge and Germany break swiftly through Mesut Özil, who spreads the ball wide to Jérôme Boateng on the right who sends it across the width of the pitch to find Reus in space. The Dortmund man doesn’t need a second invitation as he moves the ball forward before crashing a lovely left-footed shot past Westwood.
3-0 Germany break, and as Miroslav Klose looks to collect Thomas Müller’s pass he is hacked down by Darren O’Dea – and the referee points to the penalty spot. Özil steps up to coolly send his kick into the right side of the net with his left foot. No run up, a slight pause, and a clinical finish.
4-0 Another swift German break, a pin-point through-ball from Schweinsteiger to Klose, who rounds Westwood before finding the target from the tightest of tight angles to draw ever closer to Gerd Müller’s long-standing goalscoring record.
5-0 More trickery from Özil, the Irish are once again at sixes and sevens, and the ball falls to substitute Toni Kroos who cracks a stunning low left-footed volley past Westwood from just outside the penalty area.
6-0 After a string of passes Kroos finds space some twenty yards out from the Irish goal, and thunders a right-footed shot that flies past the helpless Westwood before slamming into the back of the Irish net.
6-1 After forcing Manuel Neuer into a fine save in injury time, Millwall’s Andy Keogh rises up unmarked six yards out at the far post to nod in Robby Brady’s right-wing corner. It is the final touch of the match.
v Sweden, Olympiastadion, Berlin, 16.10.2012
Team: Neuer – Boateng, Mertesacker, Badstuber, Lahm (c) – Kroos, Schweinsteiger – Müller (67. Götze), Özil, Reus (88. Podolski) – Klose
1-0 Jérôme Boateng seizes possession out on the left flank, and Philipp Lahm picks up the ball and plays a neat one-two with Toni Kroos before finding the fast-advancing Marco Reus. The Borussia Dortmund man glides to the byline, and plays the perfect cutback for Miroslav Klose, who lashes the ball into the left with his left foot from ten yards past Andreas Isaksson.
2-0 After one intricate German move breaks down, Mesut Özil plays the ball back to Reus, who once again charges to the byline following two perfect interchanges with Kroos and Thomas Müller. The winger once again cuts the ball back into the box, where Klose is on hand to stab it home from close range at the second attempt.
3-0 Lahm finds Reus in space out on the left-hand touchline, and the ball is quickly swept into the Swedish box. It takes an awkward bounce and appears to come off Klose’s arm, but ends up with to Müller is in space out on the right on the edge of the six-yard box. Unselfishly Müller heads the ball back into the danger zone, and fullback Per Mertesacker arrives unmarked to volley the ball home from seven yards with his right foot.
4-0 Müller picks the ball up out on the right just inside the Swedish half, and sprints forward and into the box before floating a cross out to the left. Özil is there to collect, and the midfield playmaker chests the ball down and steadies himself before sweeping a low left-footed shot across the helpless Isaksson and into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
4-1 Müller appears to be fouled by Kim Kallström as he advances towards the halfway line, but the referee waves play on. Kallström picks up the ball and moves away from the stricken Müller before sending a high and looping ball into the German box. Holger Badstuber fails to keep a close eye on Zlatan Ibrahimović, who appears to amble in before sending a firm header past Manuel Neuer.
4-2 Kallström sends in another high ball, catching out Badstuber who sees right-back Mikael Lustig sneak him behind him. Lustig controls the ball brilliantly before stabbing a right-footed shot from the edge of the six-yard box that appears to squirm straight through Neuer and into the back of the net at the near post.
4-3 Swedish left-back Behrang Safari breaks and sends a long ball down the left to Alexander Kačaniklić, who beats Mertesacker before cutting the ball sharply back into the box. There to meet it is Johan Elmander, who gets ahead of the almost static Badstuber to find the low right-hand corner of the net with a superbly-timed left-footed finish.
4-4 Kallström sends yet another high ball into the box, and Ibrahimović appears to impede Mertesacker with his arm as the German fullback tries to clear. The loose ball falls to Rasmus Elm, who from ten yards sweeps the ball past Neuer and into the bottom left-hand side of the German goal on the half-volley.
v Kazakhstan, Astana-Arena, Astana, 22.03.2013
Team: Neuer – Lahm (c), Mertesacker, Höwedes, Schmelzer – Khedira (82. Gündoğan), Schweinsteiger – Müller (82. Schürrle), Özil, Draxler (19. Podolski) – Götze
1-0 Benedikt Höwedes picks up the ball just inside the Kazakhstan half and threads it forward to Mesut Özil, who rolls it horizontally to Bastian Schweinsteiger who is lurking just outside the D. The Bayern man flicks the ball over both his head and his marker before sweeping it on the volley into the bottom left-hand corner of the net past ‘keeper Andrei Sidelnikov with his right foot. It should be Schweinsteiger’s goal, though it is later credited to Müller having brushed his chest on the way in.
2-0 Sami Khedira and Müller combine as Germany move down the right flank, and as Müller looks to evade a prostrate defender to collect the ball Sidelnikov comes charging off his line. It’s a crazy moment for the Kazakhstan ‘keeper, as the ball falls nice to Götze who strokes an easy right-footed effort into the back of the net.
3-0 The energetic Müller cuts inside from the right touchline, and when two opposition defenders fail to clear the loose ball is picked up by Götze. A short pass out to Özil, who then executes the perfect reverse flick back inside to Müller, whose right boot is unerring as he slots the ball past Sidelnikov and into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal.
v Kazakhstan, Grundig-Stadion, Nürnberg, 26.03.2013
Team: Neuer – Lahm (c), Mertesacker, Boateng, Schmelzer – Khedira, Gündoğan – Müller, Özil, Reus (90. Jansen) – Götze
1-0 Mesut Özil picks the ball up out in the left just inside the opposition half, and exchanges a series of crisp passes with Marco Reus who cuts inside. Reus jinks his way to the edge of the penalty area before lashing a low right-footed shot from twenty yards past Kazakh ‘keeper Andrei Sidelnikov and into the bottom left hand corner of the net.
2-0 Skipper Philipp Lahm assumes possession out on the right just midway inside the opposition half, and makes a magical run down the right and into the box. After charging past three men and skipping the challenge of a fourth, he slips a neat ball inside for Mario Götze who slides in to toe poke past the Sidelnikov from close range.
3-0 It’s pass after pass after pass from the Germans, and it after some fifty-odd exchanges covering a solid two and a quarter minutes of unbroken possession they finally go in for the kill. Jérôme Boateng plays a smart diagonal ball to Özil out on the right, and the playmaker cuts inside before dinking the ball into the box for İlkay Gündoğan to net his first international goal.
3-1 Just seconds into the second half, German ‘keeper Manuel Neuer fails to deal with a poor back pass from centre-back Per Mertesacker, and loses possession. As Neuer desperately tries to clear the loose ball, Heinrich Schmidtgal grabs the opportunity to net his side’s first goal in any full international against the Mannschaft.
4-1 Having just survived a scare at the other end, Germany break quickly up the field. Gündoğan makes a purposeful run down the left before threading a neat ball through for Reus, who coolly sweeps a right-footed into the net from just inside the penalty area.
v Austria, Allianz-Arena, München, 06.09.2013
Team: Neuer – Lahm (c), Mertesacker, Boateng, Schmelzer (46. Höwedes) – Khedira, Kroos – T. Müller, Özil, Reus (90.+1. Draxler) – Klose (82 L. Bender)
1-0 Thomas Müller picks up the ball and bursts down the right flank, sending in a perfect cross into the Austrian box that curls in slightly. There to meet it on the slide is Miroslav Klose, who beats defender Aleksandar Dragovic and the static ‘keeper Robert Almer to score the historic goal that equals Gerd Müller’s record of sixty-eight international strikes.
2-0 After a patient buildup a ball from Philipp Lahm into the Austrian penalty area is only half-cleared, and after collecting the ball out on the left Marco Reus gently rolls it back to Toni Kroos. With plenty of time and space, the FC Bayern München midfielder’s first time shot with the outside of his right boot curls away from Almer and into the right side of the net.
3-0 With Germany pressing, Kross delivers the perfect through ball to substitute left-back Benedikt Höwedes, who makes his way to the byline before sending in the perfect low cross. There to meet it is the ubiquitous Müller, who bundles the ball into the back of the net in his own unique and inimitable style.
v Faroe Islands, Tórsvøllur, Tórshavn, 10.09.2013
Team: Neuer – Lahm (c), Mertesacker, Boateng, Schmelzer – Khedira, Kroos – T. Müller (85. Sam), Özil, Draxler (74. Schürrle) – Klose (78. Kruse)
1-0 Mesut Özil swings in a corner from the right, and Jérôme Boateng rises above the Faroese defence to glance the ball across the penalty area and towards the goal. There to meet it at the far post is Per Mertesacker, who taps the ball in from no more than two yards out. ‘Keeper Gunnar Nielsen is nowhere in sight.
2-0 A fast break down the right sends Thomas Müller through, and as he bears down on the goal he is brought down by Atli Gregersen who is shown the red card. Özil calmly strokes the resulting penalty low into the bottom left corner, sending Nielsen the wrong way.
3-0 Substitute Max Kruse finds Philipp Lahm down the right, and the skipper’s low cross into the box is collected by Müller, who stumbles slightly before thumping the ball firmly into the top left corner.
v Republic of Ireland, Rhein-Energie-Stadion, Köln, 11.10.2013
Team: Neuer – Lahm (c), Mertesacker, Boateng, Jansen – Khedira (82. Kruse), Schweinsteiger – Müller (88. Sam), Kroos, Schürrle (86. Götze) – Özil
1-0 Germany steal the ball in the Irish half, and burst through the middle by skipper Philipp Lahm sees Sami Khedira in space just outside the box. His shot takes a wicked deflection off defender Cieran Clark, leaving ‘keeper David Forde with no chance.
2-0 rom a short corner Thomas Müller finds Toni Kroos outside the Irish penalty area, and the midfielder’s delicious chip over the defence finds André Schürrle, who turns on a Pfenning before stroking the ball low with his left foot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
3-0 Breaking fast out of his own half, and Kroos picks out Mesut Özil out on the right. The playmaker delivers the coolest of cool finishes, as he flicks the ball over the diving Forde with the outside of his left foot to find the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
v Sweden, Friends Arena, Solna, Stockholm, 15.10.2013
Team: Neuer – Lahm (c), Boateng, Hummels, Jansen – Schweinsteiger, Kroos – Müller (46. Götze), Özil (82. Draxler), Schürrle – Kruse (75. Höwedes)
0-1 Swedish ‘keeper Johan Wiland thumps the ball upfield where it is nodded forward to skipper Sebastian Larsson, whose well-timed pass finds Tobias Hysén inside the German box. Having got ahead of the German defence the IFK Göteborg midfielder tucks the ball under Manuel Neuer with his left foot, sending it into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
0-2 A swift Swedish counter-attack sees a perfectly-weighted pass from Kim Källström beat the offside trap, finding Alexander Kačaniklić who evades the challenge of Mats Hummels before slotting the ball low into the bottom corner of the net past the diving Neuer.
1-2 Toni Kroos picks out Max Kruse on the left, and the Borussia Mönchengladbach man’s cross takes a helpful deflection off a Swedish boot before reaching Mesut Özil who is lurking just inside the penalty area. With an almost casual sweep of his right foot, Özil sends the ball low into the bottom left-hand corner of the net from fifteen yards, giving Wiland no chance.
2-2 A Swedish move breaks down, and André Schürrle shows great pace and skill down the left before finding Kruse inside to his right. Kruse picks out Özil inside the box, and the Arsenal man outwits two opponents before toe-poking the ball inside to substitute Mario Götze, who sends a delicious curling shot into the top right-corner of the net from sixteen yards.
3-2 Per Nilsson’s attempt to play the ball to a colleague falls shot, and his error is quickly seized upon by the darting Schürrle, who sprints towards goal with the hapless Nilsson in pursuit. The defender goes to ground in making a desperate attempt to challenge, and Schürrle has enough time to steady himself before stroking the ball with clinical precision into the bottom right-hand corner of the net with his right foot.
4-2 Kruse dispossesses a disorientated Mikael Antonsson deep inside the opposition half and picks out Götze, and the little midfielder rolls the ball forward into the Swedish box for the advancing Schürrle, who slips the ball past Wiland into the bottom right-hand corner with the outside of his right boot.
4-3 Sweden win a free-kick out on the left, which is swung into the German penalty area by Sebastian Larsson. Hysén sprints forward, beating the German offside trap and lashing the ball past Neuer with a spectacular volley.
5-3 An attempted Swedish punt forward is intercepted in the centre circle by Hummels, and Kroos and Götze exchange passes as the ball smoothly works its way back deep into the Swedish half. Kroos rolls the ball out wide to find Schürrle in space just outside the penalty area, and the Chelsea winger takes a neat step inside before bending the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Final Group Standings
|Republic of Ireland||10||4||2||4||16||17||-1||14|
Other results: Kazakhstan 1-2 Republic of Ireland, Sweden 2-0 Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan 0-0 Austria, Faroe Islands 1-2 Sweden, Faroe Islands 1-4 Republic of Ireland, Austria 4-0 Kazakhstan, Austria 6-0 Faroe Islands, Sweden 0-0 Republic of Ireland, Republic of Ireland 2-2 Austria, Austria 2-1 Sweden, Republic of Ireland 3-0 Faroe Islands, Sweden 2-0 Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan 2-1 Faroe Islands, Republic of Ireland 1-2 Sweden, Austria 1-0 Republic of Ireland, Kazakhstan 0-1 Sweden, Faroe Islands 1-1 Kazakhstan, Sweden 2-1 Austria, Faroe Islands 0-3 Austria, Republic of Ireland 3-1 Kazakhstan.
Goals Summary: Özil (8), Reus (5), Götze, Klose, Müller, Schürrle (4), Kroos (3), Mertesacker (2), Gündoğan, Khedira. Total 36.