European Championship runners-up Germany found themselves in a tough but not impossible group to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with the biggest danger coming from Euro 2008 semi-finalists Russia. Also in the mix were a couple of the familiar potential banana skins in Wales and Finland, while Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein – two teams that would be encountering the Mannschaft in qualifying competition for the first time – made up the six-team group.

Joachim Löw’s side began emphatically as they racked up half a dozen goals against Liechtenstein 6-0 in their opening game in Vaduz, though things would be a lot more testing four days later in Helsinki when they took on Finland, a team that had seemingly forgotten the thrashings they had endured at the hands of the Nationalmannschaft during the 1980s. Living up to their billing as a dangerous and underrated opponent, the Finns found themselves in front three times, only to be pegged back on each occasion by Miroslav Klose who put together an excellent hat-trick. Klose could have won the game for Germany in the dying moments, but in the end they would have been satisfied to have escaped with a point. Finland had been seventeen minutes away from ruining Germany’s unbeaten away record in World Cup qualifiers in 2001: eight years later they would come even closer to doing the same thing again.

The 3-3 draw in Finland would be followed by an excellent spell that would see Löw’s team win their next seven qualifying matches over the course of 2008 and 2009, ensuring an smooth and painless path to the 2010 finals. Their hardest opponents Russia were beaten 2-1 in Dortmund and 1-0 in Moscow – with the latter result achieved with ten men after debutant Jérôme Boateng had been sent off after sixty-nine minutes – while a brave Welsh side were seen off 1-0 in Mönchengladbach and 2-0 in Cardiff courtesy of some fantastic strikes over the two games by Piotr Trochowski and Michael Ballack.

The two smaller sides offered little in the way of resistance and failed to trouble the German defence: a brave Liechtenstein side put up more of a fight than they had at home and were beaten 4-0 in Leipzig, while Azerbaijan would concede six in their two encounters with the Mannschaft. Löw’s side had not conceded in a competitive match since Andrei Arshavin’s fifty-first minute reply for Russia in Dortmund – a run of six straight matches lasting more than a calendar year – and had booked their place in South Africa with a game to spare.

There to spoil the run were Finland, who had the temerity to take the lead in what should have been a gala display in front of an enthusiastic home crowd at Hamburg’s HSH Nordbank Arena. Having taken an eleventh minute lead through Jonatan Johansson, the infuriatingly obdurate Finns kept out everything the home side could throw at them – until the dying moments of the game when Lukas Podolski wiped a little bit of the egg off German faces and preserved their unbeaten record in the group.

Match Results and Details

v Liechtenstein, Rheinpark Stadion, Vaduz, 06.09.2008

6-0 (1-0)
Podolski 21., 48., Rolfes 65., Schweinsteiger 66., Hitzlsperger 76., Westermann 86. / –

Team: Enke – Fritz, Taşçı, Westermann, Lahm – Schweinsteiger, Rolfes (69. Marin), Hitzlsperger, Trochowski – Klose (c) (65. Gómez), Podolski (76. Kurányi)

Goal Info:

1-0 Lukas Podolski makes a typically robust charge down the left, before cutting the ball pack to Piotr Trochowski who is just outside the opposition penalty area. Trochowski slips in a quick return pass, and Podolski slams an angled left-footed shot across ‘keeper Peter Jehle and into the right-hand side of the net.

2-0 Trochowski picks the ball up deep on the left in the opposition half, and just before he reaches the Liechtenstein box is plays a neat past outside to his left through two opposition defenders. There to latch onto it is Podolski, who drives the ball inside Jehle with his left foot.

3-0 A curling Clemens Fritz free-kick is curled into the Liechtenstein box, and after Jehle punches the ball off Bastian Schweinsteiger’s head at the edge of the six-yard box it falls to Simon Rolfes some ten yards out. Rolfes slots a right-footed ahot into the right side of the net as the ‘keeper struggles to get back.

4-0 A speculative header forward from the centre circle by Heiko Westermann catches the Liechtenstein defence by surprise, sending the alert Schweinsteiger clean through on goal. The German number seven times his run perfectly, and chips the ball over the advancing Jehle with his right boot.

5-0 Germany win a indirect free-kick twenty-five yards from the Liechtenstein goal, and Thomas Hitzlsperger smashes a left-footed effort that takes a nasty deflection off a member of the defensive wall. It is all too much for the unfortunate ‘keeper who sees the ball sail over his head and into the middle of the net.

6-0 A corner from the left is swung into the box by teenage subsitute Marko Marin, and Westermann rises above the defence to send a powerful header that rockets into the roof of the net past the helpless Jehle.

v Finland, Olympiastadion, Helsinki, 10.09.2008

3-3 (2-2)
Klose 38., 45., 83. / Johansson 32., Väyrynen 43, Sjölund 53.

Team: Enke – Fritz (82. Hinkel), Taşçı, Westermann, Lahm – Schweinsteiger, Hitzlsperger (69. Gómez), Rolfes (82. Helmes), Trochowski – Klose (c), Podolski

Goal Info:

0-1 Roman Eremenko takes possession just inside the German half, and chips the ball forward towards Jonatan Johansson. Both Heiko Westermann and Philipp Lahm contrive to botch their attempted clearances, and Johansson is able to slip the ball with his right foot under the advancing Robert Enke.

1-1 Piotr Trochowski delivers a curling long ball to the edge of the Finnish penalty area, and Miroslav Klose finds a path between two opponents before running into the box and slotting a low left-footed shot into the right-hand side of the net with ‘keeper Jussi Jääskeläinen left helpless.

1-2 A long Finnish ball out to the left finds Daniel Sjölund, whose left-footed cross into the German box somehow finds its way through the German defence. There to meet it is Mika Väyrynen, whose right-footed reaction shot gives Enke no chance. The German ‘keeper somehow manages to get a hand on the ball, but it flies into the left hand side of the net.

2-2 Thomas Hitzlsperger sends an inswinging corner from the left, and Miroslav Klose his first to meet it with his head. Jääskeläinen gets his entire body in the way and manages to keep it out, but the ball falls to Klose who is able to steer it into the empty net from all of two yards past the stricken Finnish ‘keeper.

2-3 Finland take a short left-side corner, and a well placed cross from the left by Väyrynen is delivered into the German penalty area. Sjölund is completely unmarked, and has all the time in the world to leap at the near post and guide his header into the left-hand corner of the net with the unfortunate Enke completely left completely stranded.

3-3 It’s like a pinball machine inside the Finnish box and Klose and subsitute Mario Gómez exchange passes. Gómez has his back towards goal and plays the ball back to Trochowski, whose curls a right-footed shot from just inside the box that is well parried by Jääskeläinen. Gómez’ shot from the rebound is blocked by Veli Mikko Lampi, but Klose is on hand to sweep the ball into the back of the net with his left foot.

v Russian Federation, Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, 11.10.2008
Russian Federation

2-1 (2-0)
Podolski 9., Ballack 28. / Arshavin 51.

Team: Adler – Friedrich, Mertesacker, Westermann, Lahm – Schweinsteiger, Ballack (c), Hitzlsperger (90. Rolfes), Trochowski (84. Frings) – Klose (71. Gómez), Podolski

Goal Info:

1-0 A well-placed low pass on the right from Thomas Hitzlsperger is directed towards Bastian Schweinsteiger, who plays a neat first-time backheel to Miroslav Klose in the Russian penalty area. Klose twists, turns and holds the ball up brilliantly before side-footing to Lukas Podolski, who deftly sidesteps his marker and slots a left-footed shot past ‘keeper Igor Akinfeev into the right side of the net.

2-0 Philipp Lahm charges on the left of the field into the Russian half, playing the ball out to Piotr Trochowski who cuts inside to chip the ball to Schweinsteiger who advances into the opposition box. Schweinsteiger controls the ball brilliantly and lifts the most delicate of crosses towards the far post, where it is met by Michael Ballack who stabs it home with his right foot.

2-1 A Russian attack down the right flank looks to have broken down, but an awful mix-up between Heiko Westermann and Philipp Lahm allows right-back Aleksandr Anyukov to regain possession. Taking full toll of Lahm’s error, Anyukov makes his way to the byline before skidding the ball behind ‘keeper René Adler and across the face of the German goal where it is tapped in by Andrei Arshavin.

v Wales, Borussia-Park, Mönchengladbach, 15.10.2008

1-0 (0-0)
Trochowski 72. / –

Team: Adler – Friedrich (64. Fritz), Mertesacker, Westermann, Lahm – Schweinsteiger, Ballack (c), Hitzlsperger, Trochowski – Klose (46. Helmes), Podolski (82. Gómez)

Goal Info:

1-0 Germany win a corner on the left, and Bastian Schweinsteiger quickly plays it short of Piotr Trochowski who is lurking just outside the Welsh penalty area. Trochowski feigns a move left and then quickly cuts back inside, leaving his marker completely wrong-footed; having created the space, he delivers a powerful right-footed shot that swerves into the top-right hand corner of the net past ‘keeper Wayne Hennessey.

v Liechtenstein, Zentralstadion, Leipzig, 28.03.2009

4-0 (2-0)
Ballack 4., Jansen 9., Schweinsteiger 48., Podolski 50. / –

Team: Enke – Beck, Mertesacker, Taşçı, Lahm – Schweinsteiger (88. Rolfes), Ballack (c), Hitzlsperger (78. Marin), Jansen (64. Helmes) – Gómez, Podolski

Goal Info:

1-0 Philipp Lahm swings the ball from the left into the Liechtenstein box towards Per Mertesacker, who with his back to goal touches it back to Serdar Taşçı. Taşçı rolls it out to Bastian Schweinsteiger who is on the left edge of the penalty area, and the German number seven chips the ball back out towards the D where it is met on the volley by Michael Ballack. The shot flies like a bullet into the roof of the net, going straight through the hands of ‘keeper Peter Jehle who sees it way too late.

2-0 Schweinsteiger plays the ball from inside the halfway line to Ballack, who charges down the right side of the field towards the opposition box. He squares the ball to Podolski, who sends in a low left-foot drive from twenty yards. The shot is parried by Jehle, but the loose ball is collected by Marcell Jansen who slams it high into the right-hand side of the net with his left foot.

3-0 Thomas Hitzlsperger plays a low pass into the box with both Schweinsteiger and Podolski looking slightly offside, and Schweinsteiger plays a deft backheel towards Podolski. Podolski’s effort is half-smothered by Jehle and the ball loops rather bizarrely towards the empty net, where Schweinsteiger trots in to finish from close range with his right foot.

4-0 Germany move forward down the left flank, and substitute Mario Gómez sends a low cross into the box. Martin Stocklasa slides in but makes a complete mess of his clearance, and the ball rolls conveniently into the path of Podolski who slips the ball under the advancing Jehle into the right-hand corner of the net with his lethal left foot.

v Wales, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, 01.04.2009

2-0 (1-0)
Ballack 11., Williams og 48. / –

Team: Enke – Beck, Mertesacker, Taşçı, Lahm – Rolfes (79. Westermann), Hitzlsperger – Schweinsteiger (86. Helmes), Ballack (c), Podolski (72. Trochowski) – Gómez

Goal Info:

1-0 Thomas Hitzlsperger picks up possession halfway inside the Welsh half on the left from a Philipp Lahm throw-in, and plays a short ball inside to Michael Ballack. Ballack has plenty of time and space, and launches a ferocious right-footed shot from all of thirty-five yards that gathers momentum as it flies towards the Welsh goal. ‘Keeper Wayne Hennessey flaps at thin air as the ball flies past him into the top left-hand side of the net.

2-0 Germany put together a move down the right flank, as Ballack nods the ball on to Hitzlsperger who in turn plays it forward to Mario Gómez. Gómez battles his way to the byline and shows great skill to work his way past James Collins and cut the ball back inside, where it is intercepted by defender Ashley Williams who stabs it into his own net at the near post.

v Azerbaijan, Tofik Bakhramov Stadium, Baku, 12.08.2009

2-0 (1-0)
Schweinsteiger 12., Klose 54. / –

Team: Enke – Lahm, Mertesacker, Taşçı, M. Schäfer – Schweinsteiger, Ballack (c), Hitzlsperger, Trochowski (77. Jansen) – Klose (75. Cacau), Gómez (84. Özil)

Goal Info:

1-0 Piotr Trochowski picks the ball up in the centre of the Azerbaijan half, and finds Bastian Schweinsteiger to his right just outside the penalty area. Schweinsteiger cuts back inside before finding the top left-hand corner of the net with a well-hit left-footed shot that takes a wicked deflection off a defender’s boot, leaving ‘keeper Farhad Veliyev helpless.

2-0 Schweinsteiger causes confusion outside the Azeri penalty area, and a stray backpass is intercepted at the edge of the box by Mario Gómez. Gómez does brilliantly to turn a full circle before lashing the ball against the crossbar, and Miroslav Klose is right on the spot to nod the rebound into the empty net with Veliyev unable to recover his ground.

v Azerbaijan, AWD-Arena, Hannover, 09.09.2009

4-0 (1-0)
Ballack pen 14., Klose 55., 65., Podolski 71. / –

Team: Adler – Lahm, Mertesacker, Westermann, Ma. Schäfer (46. Beck) – Ballack (c), Hitzlsperger – Schweinsteiger (67. Trochowski), Özil, Podolski – Gómez (46. Klose)

Goal Info:

1-0 Lukas Podolski picks the ball up on the left, and his pass inside finds Mario Gómez inside the D. Gómez threads the ball into the box as Podolski continues his run, and the winger is bundled over by Samir Abbasov. Michael Ballack drills the resulting penalty low into the right-hand side of the net as ‘keeper Kamran Agayev goes the wrong way.

2-0 A lovely floated ball from Ballack finds Philipp Lahm out on the left, who then cuts sharply infield towards the oppositional penalty area. Lahm reaches the D and plays the ball to his right where the unmarked substitute Miroslav Klose arrives to send a firm right-footed shot between Agayev and his near post.

3-0 Thomas Hitzlsperger’s short pass finds Mesut Özil, and the youngster runs towards the Azeri box before playing the ball out to Andreas Beck out on the right. Beck’s cross takes a slight deflection of a defender, but bounces perfectly for Klose who arrives at the near post to flick an angled right-footed shot over Agayev that flies into the left-hand corner of the net.

4-0 Sub Piotr Trochowski picks out Özil just outside the opposition box, who cuts inside and out before sending a right-footed cross into the box. Ballack rises to nod the ball into space, and the unmarked Lukas Podolski lets it bounce before sweeping it into the bottom right-hand corner with his left boot.

v Russian Federation, Luzhniki Stadium, Moskva, 10.10.2009
Russian Federation

1-0 (1-0)
Klose 35. / –
Red Card: Boateng 69.

Team: Adler – Boateng, Mertesacker, Westermann, Lahm – Ballack (c), Rolfes – Schweinsteiger, Özil (72. Friedrich), Podolski (86. Trochowski) – Klose (89. Gómez)

Goal Info:

1-0 Lukas Podolski picks the ball up on the left touchline deep inside the Russian half and charges past two men before playing it back to Mesut Özil. As Podolski continues his run into the penalty area, Özil delivers the perfect first-time return pass. Podolski has plenty of time to square the ball into inside past ‘keeper Igor Akinfeev, and Miroslav Klose gets in front of Sergey Ignashevich to slide it into the empty net.

v Finland, HSH Nordbank Arena, Hamburg, 14.10.2009

1-1 (0-1)
Podolski 90. / Johansson 11.

Team: Adler – Beck, Friedrich, Westermann, Lahm – Ballack (c) (46. Özil), Hitzlsperger (46. Gentner), Trochowski – Cacau, Gomez (77. Klose), Podolski

Goal Info:

0-1 Finland’s Roni Porokara picks the ball up on the left flank, outpaces Andreas Beck to the byline where he sends in a good left-footed cross. Roman Eremenko beats Philipp Lahm in the air to nod the ball into the six-yard box, and Jonatan Johansson ghosts in front of Heiko Westermann to chest it down before bundling it in past René Adler.

1-1 A frenetic finish to the match sees Westermann blasts a shot from the edge of the box which is parried by Jussi Jääskeläinen, with the loose ball being sent back towards the far post by Mesut Özil. The ball falls to Johansson who fails to clear the danger, and Miroslav Klose seizes the chance to play the ball back across the six-yard box where it is scuffed home by Lukas Podolski – who shows that he does have a right foot.

Final Group Standings

GermanyGermany (Q)10820265+2126
Russian FederationRussian Federation (P)10712196+1322

Other results: Wales 1-0 Azerbaijan; Russian Federation 2-1 Wales; Azerbaijan 0-0 Liechtenstein; Finland 1-0 Azerbaijan; Wales 2-0 Liechtenstein; Russian Federation 3-0 Finland; Russian Federation 2-0 Azerbaijan; Wales 0-2 Finland; Liechtenstein 0-1 Russian Federation; Azerbaijan 0-1 Wales; Finland 2-1 Liechtenstein; Finland 0-3 Russian Federation; Azerbaijan 1-2 Finland; Russian Federation 3-0 Liechtenstein; Liechtenstein 1-1 Finland, Wales 1-3 Russian Federation; Finland 2-1 Wales; Liechtenstein 0-2 Azerbaijan; Azerbaijan 1-1 Russian Federation; Liechtenstein 0-2 Wales.

Goals Summary: Klose (7), Podolski (6), Ballack (4), Schweinsteiger (3), Hitzlsperger, Jansen, Rolfes, Trochowski, Westermann (1), own goals (1). Total 26.

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