Baku (AFP) – Record-breaking Germany face Azerbaijan on Sunday with head coach Joachim Loew insisting their simple goal is to “ruthlessly” secure World Cup qualification as quickly as possible.
The defending champions are currently five points clear in Group C and a fifth straight win would take them a step closer to Russia 2018.
After Wednesday’s friendly home win over England, when Lukas Podolski ended his international career with the winning goal, Germany aim to be business-like in Baku.
Even their plane on the flight from Duesseldorf was called “Siegen” (‘To Win’).
Against England, Germany did not concede a goal for the seventh match running to set a new national record.
The Germans have not leaked a goal since their 2-0 semi-final defeat to France at Euro 2016 last July.
“Our goal is to secure a ticket for the World Cup as soon as possible,” said Loew.
“I am absolutely convinced that we will continue our winning run.”
Last October, Loew said he had two aims for the rest of the season: “that the team remains stable and we ruthlessly go through the qualifying phase”.
Both goals have so far been fulfilled with Germany winning all four qualifying games so far, scoring 16 goals and conceding none.
Having fielded an experimental side against England, Loew will have first-choice starters Sami Khedira, Julian Draxler and Mario Gomez available after minor knocks.
There is a question mark over Mesut Ozil, who pulled out of Friday’s training session with a back injury, but flew to Baku, unlike Julian Weigl, who has a thigh injury.
Germany captain Manuel Neuer is out with a calf injury, as is his Bayern Munich team-mate Jerome Boateng, who is regaining fitness after shoulder surgery.
Rising star striker Timo Werner, 21, is out with a thigh injury having made his debut against England.
In Neuer’s absence, Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen is expected to play in goal.
“I have great faith in my players, we know we can find the right solutions, and if we play the way we can, we will win the game,” added Loew.
“But the task in Baku is far from easy, at home Azerbaijan finally beat Norway, so we have been warned.”
Azerbaijan’s results have improved under Croatian coach Robert Prosinecki.
They were ranked as low as 126th in October 2014 when Berti Vogts walked away as head coach following a 6-0 thrashing by Croatia.
“They only think about their cash and don’t do anything to earn it,” fumed the German at the time. “I can’t do anything with them.”
Now Azerbaijan are ranked 89th in the world, albeit 86 places below the Germans.
They managed a 1-0 upset win over Norway last October, but were thrashed 4-0 by Northern Ireland in Belfast a month later and warmed up for the Germany clash by beating Qatar 2-1 away.
According to German midfielder Toni Kroos, Azerbaijan are “not in the same category as Liechtenstein or San Marino, they’re better, but we have to win there.”
Prosinecki says the hosts believe in themselves and he has the realistic aim of qualifying for Russia 2018, which would be Azerbaijan’s first appearance at a finals.
He wants his side to “not only defend, but play football,” against Germany and says they can “surprise any opponent”.
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