The draw for the qualifying phase of the 2018 FIFA World Cup was made in the Russian city of St. Petersburg on 25th July 2015, with Germany being placed in Group C – a six-team group along with the Czech Republic, Norway, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan and San Marino.
The Czechs are familiar opponents for the Nationalmannschaft, with the two teams last meeting in qualifying competition for Euro 2008 which saw Germany win 2-1 in Prague before going down 3-0 in what was a dead rubber at the Allianz Arena in München. In terms of the World Cup, this is Germany’s first meeting with what is now the Czech Republic – the qualifying stage for the 1986 tournament had seen Franz Beckenbauer’s team take on what was then Czechoslovakia, registering a 5-1 win in Prague before a 2-2 draw – at the Olympiastadion in München.
One has to go back more than sixty years to Germany’s last competitive international against Norway, who were in Mannschaft’s qualifying group for the 1954 tournament in Switzerland. Having been held to a 1-1 draw in Oslo, Sepp Herberger’s team would have a far easier time in the return in Hamburg, coasting to a 5-1 win en route to the their glorious final tournament campaign culminating in Der Wunder von Bern.
Northern Ireland by contrast have cropped up on a fairly regular basis as qualifying group opponents for the Mannschaft, with the first meetings taking place in the 1962 World Cup campaign which resulted in close German victories in Belfast and Berlin. The two teams would meet again in qualifying for the 1984 European Championships, where Jupp Derwall’s side would somehow manage to qualify for the finals despite being beaten 1-0 both home and away by a spirited Northern Irish side.
Germany were then drawn together in the same qualifying group as the Northern Irishmen for both the 1998 World Cup and 2000 Euros, with the Germans reestablishing their supremacy. Berti Vogts’ side were held to a surprise 1-1 draw in Nürnberg before winning 3-1 in Belfast, while the team coached by Erich Ribbeck would have a far easier time of things, winning 3-0 in Belfast before sweeping to a 4-0 win in Dortmund.
Azerbaijan have featured in recent qualifying campaigns for the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euros with Joachim Löw’s side racking up four wins from the four meetings with a goals tally of 15-2, including a 6-1 win in Köln in 2010. Minnows San Marino meanwhile would suffer at the hand of a rampant German side en route to the Euro 2008 finals, with the Mannschaft registering a record 13-0 away win in Serravalle in September 2006 before a slightly more sedate 6-0 win in Nürnberg.
v Norway, Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo, 04.09.2016
Team: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Hummels, Höwedes, Hector – Kroos, Khedira (84. Weigl) – Müller, Özil, Draxler (84. Meyer) – Götze (72. Brandt)
1-0 After a shot from Sami Khedira shot is blocked, Thomas Müller shows great persistence in fighting for the ball in the Norwegian penalty area after Mesut Özil picks him out. After being foiled by a red-shirted defender with his first attempt, Müller stretches with his left foot and sees his shot loop into the bottom right-hand corner off ‘keeper Rune Jarstein.
2-0 An Özil pass finds Müller just outside the Norwegian box, and der Raumdeuter’s perfectly timed ball is collected by the fast advancing Joshua Kimmich. The youngster strikes the ball firmly with his right foot from the edge of the box, and it curls past the outstretched hand of Jarstein before hitting the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
3-0 Kimmich makes his way to the byline before dropping the ball back for Khedira, and the the Juventus man’s perfectly-placed cross is headed firmly into the net by Müller from around twelve yards. Jarstein dives full length to his left, but Müller’s finish is inch perfect into the bottom right-hand corner.
v Czech Republic, Volksparkstadion, Hamburg, 08.10.2016
Team: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Hector (68. Höwedes) – Khedira, Kroos (76. Gündoğan) – Müller, Özil, Draxler (80. Brandt) – Götze
1-0 Germany break at pace down the left, and Mario Götze makes his way towards the Czech penalty area. His low cross into the box is well left by Mesut Özil, and Thomas Müller calmly strokes it home with his right foot. It takes the slightest of deflections, and there’s no chance for Czech ‘keeper Tomáš Vaclík.
2-0 Joshua Kimmich advances down the right, and takes his time to make space as the Czech defenders stand back. He rolls the ball inside towards the D, and finds Toni Kroos who sends a low, curling right-footed shot into the bottom of the net past the Vaclík’s outstretched left hand.
3-0 There’s some great movement from Özil and Jonas Hector down the left, and Hector drills in a low cross in towards the six-yard box. Müller accelerates towards the six-yard box, and gets in front of the Czech skipper Marek Suchý to sweep the ball with his left foot past the helpless Vaclík.
v Northern Ireland, HDI-Arena, Hannover, 11.10.2016
Team: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Boateng (69. Mustafi), Hummels, Hector (81. Volland) – Kroos, Khedira – Müller, Özil (46. Gündoğan), Draxler – Götze
1-0 The roving Thomas Müller is out at the left-hand side of the opposition penalty area, and shields the ball nicely before rolling it inside for Julian Draxler. Draxler makes room for himself before sending a low shot with his right foot into the bottom right-hand corner past the diving Michael McGovern. The ‘keeper gets a fingertip to the ball, but cannot keep it out.
2-0 Toni Kroos plays a short left-sided corner to Mesut Özil, who sends in an inviting outswinger into the box. Centre-back Mats Hummels is there first, beating his opponent in the air to head the ball back inside towards Sami Khedira at the far post. The tall Khedira easily beats defender Oliver Norwood, and calmly sends a looping header into the net.
v San Marino, Stadio Olimpico, Serravalle, 11.11.2016
Team: ter Stegen – Kimmich, Hummels – Henrichs, Hector – Khedira (c) (77. Goretzka), Gündoğan – Müller, Götze (71. Volland), Gnabry – Gómez (71. Meyer)
1-0 İlkay Gündoğan dinks the ball over a crowd of blue shirts into the opposition box, and Sami Khedira smartly collects. The big number six shows lovely control as he dances past a defender and ‘keeper Aldo Simoncini before rolling the ball into the net with his left foot.
2-0 There’s complete pandemonium in the San Marino box, and the Mannschaft are two up. Mario Gómez’s shot is pushed out by Simoncini, and the keeper’s twin brother Davide makes a complete hash of things as he looks to complete the clearance. The ball falls to Serge Gnabry, who sends a smart right-footed effort into the bottom right-hand corner to score a nice debut goal.
3-0 Some lovely movement from the Germans, and Mario Götze unlocks the San Marino defence after collecting a neat pass from Gündoğan. The World Cup winner send the ball through for Jonas Hector, whose left foot finds the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
4-0 Joshua Kimmich lifts the ball over the San Marino defence, and Gnabry is there to sweep it into the net with his right foot. There is a slight whiff of offside, but there’s no flag from the referee’s assistant on the touchline.
5-0 Germany win a corner and take it quickly. Götze dances around in the box with the ball and draws Simoncini off his line, and the Dortmund man’s cutback from the byline finds Hector, who stabs it through the ‘keeper’s legs with the outside of his left foot.
6-0 Thomas Müller sends in another lovely ball over the top of the static San Marino defence, and Gnabry beats the offside trap as he strokes the ball into the bottom right-hand corner on the volley to complete a superb debut hat-trick.
7-0 Substitute Kevin Volland bursts down the right and sends in a low cross. Simoncini gets a hand on it, and the unfortunate Matthia Stefanelli is left helpless as he turns it into his own net.
8-0 Müller floats into the penalty area and cut the ball back neatly into space for Volland. The Leverkusen man is able to collect and get himself into position before sending a low left-footed shot past Simoncini to notch up his first international goal.
v Azerbaijan, Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium, Baku, 26.03.2017
Team: Leno – Kimmich, Höwedes, Hummels, Hector – Kroos (89. Rudy), Khedira (c) – Müller, Draxler (84. Sané), Schürrle – Gómez (61. Özil)
1-0 Mats Hummels sends a low pass from inside his own half through to the advancing Sami Khedira, who in turn finds Julian Draxler. Draxler’s first time ball out to the left finds Jonas Hector, whose cross is perfectly delivered for André Schürrle who taps it in from just inside the six yard box. Azeri ‘keeper Kamran Agayev gets a hand to the ball, but is unable to prevent it from nestling in the back of the net.
1-1 Afran Ismayilov seizes on a poor pass from Hector and charges forward down the right. A high ball across the pitch finds Dimitri 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. Bernd Leno dives low to his left, but has no chance.
2-1 After dispossessing an opponent just inside the opposition half, Schürrle slips a perfectly-weighted pass for Thomas Müller to chase. The FC Bayern München man still has plenty of work to do, but controls the ball beautifully and floats around Agayev with ease before executing the perfect left-footed finish into the bottom right hand corner.
3-1 After a patient buildup, a well-timed ball from Benedikt 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 Mario Gómez. Lurking at the edge of the six-yard box, Gómez positions himself perfectly to send a well-placed looping header into the far corner, and well beyond the reach of Agayev.
4-1 Toni Kroos and sub Mesut Özil initiate another patient buildup, and a great ball from Kroos finds the alert Hector to his left. The left-back sends a sharp low cutback into the box, where Schürrle is waiting 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 foot.
v San Marino, Stadion Nürnberg, Nürnberg, 10.06.2017
Team: ter Stegen – Kimmich, Mustafi, Hector (55. Plattenhardt) – Can, Goretzka – Brandt, Draxler (c) (76. Demme), Younes – Stindl (55. Werner), Wagner
1-0 Lars Stindl sends a lovely pass into the San Marino box, and the men in blue look to have cleared the danger. They haven’t though, and the ball falls to Julian Draxler who is free inside the box some seven yards from goal. The skipper has enough time to calmly send a curling right-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner past ‘keeper Elia Benedettini.
2-0 Joshua Kimmich finds space down the right, and sends in a teasing cross into the Sammarinese penalty area. Striker Sandro Wagner gets in front of defender Alessandro Delle Valle, and guides a superb header into the top right-hand corner to score his first international goal.
3-0 Germany win a free kick midway inside the opposition half, and Kimmich dinks the ball into the box. The San Marino defence are standing around like statues, and Amin Younes collects the pass before squaring it inside. The alert Wagner is there to finish it off, and takes a touch before stabbing it home from six yards with his right foot.
4-0 Julian Brandt and Stindl combine nicely down the right, and Germany win another corner. Benedettini gets a hand to Kimmich’s outswinger, but only succeeds in pushing the ball against a team mate. The San Marino defence are all over the place, and Younes taps it in from three yards to get off the mark in international football.
5-0 Germany win a corner out on the right, and Kimmich’s ball into the box creates more chaos for the visitors. Full-back Skhodran Mustafi shows plenty of physical presence to get a shot on goal, which takes the slightest of deflections to take it past Benedettini. The ‘keeper gets a hand to the ball, but cannot keep it out.
6-0 The home side are awarded another free-kick, and Kimmich’s floated ball into the opposition penalty area is superbly guided home by Brandt. The Leverkusen man’s header is perfectly placed, and once again Benedettini has no chance.
7-0 Germany attack at pace down the right, and it is Kimmich again with another killer cross. Wagner is there to meet it, and sends a neat glancing header past Benedettini to complete and excellent hat-trick in his first competitive international.
v Czech Republic, Eden Aréna, Praha, 01.09.2017
v Norway, Mercedes-Benz Arena, Stuttgart, 04.09.2017
v Northern Ireland, Windsor Park, Belfast, 05.10.2017
v Azerbaijan, Fritz-Walter-Stadion, Kaiserslautern, 08.10.2017
Current Group Standings
Other results: San Marino 0-1 Azerbaijan, Czech Republic 0-0 Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan 1-0 Norway, Northern Ireland 4-0 San Marino, Czech Republic 0-0 Azerbaijan, Norway 4-1 San Marino, Czech Republic 2-1 Norway, Northern Ireland 4-0 Azerbaijan, San Marino 0-6 Czech Republic, Northern Ireland 2-0 Norway, Azerbaijan 0-1 Northern Ireland, Norway 1-1 Czech Republic.
Goals Summary: Müller (5), Gnabry, Wagner (3), Draxler, Hector, Khedira, Schürrle (2), Brandt, Gómez, Kimmich, Kroos, Mustafi, Volland, Younes, own goals (1). Total 27.