Yesterday saw the draw for the qualifying stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the Russia city of St. Petersburg, with Germany avoiding the likes of Italy and France and ending up with a challenging but workable five opponents as they look to defend their world title in Russia.
The Czech Republic are likely to provide the stiffest opposition for Joachim Löw’s men, and the Nationalmannschaft meet dark horses Norway for the first time in a competitive international since 1953 – a wonderful coincidence given that the draw was made while I was making my way back to London from holiday in Oslo. Both the Republic and Northern Ireland have by contrast been frequent opponents for German sides in qualifying competition over the years, and this time it is the turn of the Ulstermen – the two teams’ fifth coming together in qualifying competition.
Arguably less testing are Azerbaijan and San Marino, who between them have shipped thirty-four goals in just half a dozen World Cup and Euro qualifiers against Germany. The Mannschaft meet Azerbaijan for the third time in the last four qualifying tournaments, while group whipping boys San Marino were on the end of Germany’s biggest away win back in 2006, which saw Löw’s side romp to a 13-0 triumph in Serravalle.
The qualifying process gets underway for Germany in September 2016 in Norway, and concludes just over a year later in October 2017 with the home game against Azerbaijan; there will be a more in-depth overview of Germany’s five qualifying opponents shortly before the campaign begins at the start of the 2016/17 season, but you can see the outline fixture list here.