Berlin (AFP) – Germany want a show of power in Saturday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against a Czech Republic side hoping for ‘a little miracle’ against the world champions.
“We’re playing against a team that can only be defeated in exceptional circumstances. We hope for a little miracle,” Czech coach Karel Jarolim told German magazine Kicker.
Despite his flattery, the Czechs meet a German team capable of dominating opponents, yet can struggle to turn possession into pressure.
Germany are currently a long way from the polished goal-machine which lifted the World Cup two years ago.
Jarolim is in a rebuilding phase without the likes of veteran play-maker Tomas Rosicky, the Arsenal legend now at Sparta Prague, and Gunners’ goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Both wing backs, Gebre Selassie of Werder Bremen and Pavel Kaderabek of Hoffenheim, ply their trade in Germany’s top flight.
Sampdoria’s 20-year-old striker Patrik Schick is set to win just his second cap.
The Czechs were held to a goalless draw by Northern Ireland in their opening qualifier in Prague on September 4, the same night Germany enjoyed a 3-0 win away to Norway when Thomas Mueller netted twice.
Germany’s aim is to stay top of Group C by beating the Czechs, then Northern Ireland next Tuesday in Hanover.
“We have the clear goal of remaining group leaders,” said captain Manuel Neuer.
“We have two important games in front of us and we want six points.”
Despite the Czechs’ rebuilding, Germany head coach Joachim Loew is full of respect.
“This will be our toughest competitor in the group, they have good individuals. On paper, they are the strongest in the group,” said Loew.
The 56-year-old suffered the heaviest home loss in his decade in charge in October 2007 when the Czechs clinched a 3-0 win in Munich in a qualifier for Euro 2008.
The main concern in the German camp is efficiency.
Finishing chances and converting pressure into goals was their major stumbling block at Euro 2016 and remains an issue.
Loew is without Mario Gomez as his only out-and-out striker has a glute injury.
In his absence, the onus on providing goals will fall to Mueller, Mario Goetze and Kevin Volland.
Yet none of the trio has hit the net for their respective clubs Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim after six rounds of Bundesliga matches.
Loew had identified the national team’s main problem, which his players are now under pressure to fix.
“We need too many shots for a goal, our chance-conversion rate is a matter of concentration in the final phase and in our mentality,” he said.
Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion is set to be a sell-out, but Neuer wants a good performance to silence the whistles the national team has experienced following below-par performances in recent home games.
“Of course, we always want to put in a good display and play well for the fans, but the most important thing is the victory — it’s about what counts,” said Germany’s captain.
“We’re hoping for a good atmosphere, so that everyone goes home happy — and we aren’t subjected to a concert of whistles.”
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