Germany extended their lead at the top of World Cup Qualifying Group C with a comfortable 3-0 win in Kazakhstan on Friday evening – the very same scoreline achieved on their previous visit in 2010.
The trickiest part of the trip to the former Soviet republic may have been actually getting to the world’s ninth largest country. A service personnel strike at Frankfurt Airport on Thursday plunged Germany’s busiest hub into chaos. A special counter had to be set up for the prominent guests to allow them to continue unaffected on their gruelling 4300 kilometre trip to the Central Asian outpost.
The qualifier kicked off at midnight local time in the Kazakh capital of Astana, catering to a five-hour time difference between Kazakhstan and Germany. The visitors’ fight against their own internal body-clock was probably more troublesome than any real attacking threat posed by the hosts. Along with the disorienting kick-off time, Joachim Löw’s charges also had to cope with an artificial surface in the Astana Arena.
Löw had stirred up a whiff of controversy pre-match by questioning the wisdom of footballing ‘super powers’ (such as Germany) taking on minnows such as the Kazakhs (FIFA ranking 139).
Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez was ruled out on the eve of the match with a thigh strain. Gomez’s late withdrawal left the squad bereft of the services of an out-and-out striker, leaving Löw with little alternative but to employ once again a Teutonic version of the en vogue “false 9”. The German coach had plumped for the forward-less formation in their last two away friendlies in the Netherlands (0-0) and in France (2-1).
This latest snub must signal the end of any international aspirations for Bayer Leverkusen’s in-form Stefan Kiessling. The ex-Nuremberg striker immediately ruled himself out of Germany’s summer tour to the USA after being repeatedly overlooked by Löw.
Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker started at the back for “Die Mannschaft” whilst fellow Gunner Lukas Podolski won his 108th cap after coming on as a 19th minute substitute for 19-year-old Julian Draxler, who had to bow out with concussion after an early clash of heads.
The game was effectively over as a contest after a clinical double German strike settled matters towards the halfway point of the first half.
The opening goal on 20 minutes was a Bavarian co-production. Bastian Schweinsteiger showed excellent close control before unleashing a sweet volley that deflected off his Bayern team-mate Thomas Müller past a helpless keeper, Andrey Sidelnikov.
Mario Götze acted as the fulcrum furthest up the pitch, a role he performed with aplomb. Dortmund’s Götze doubled the lead on 22 minutes, hammering home the loose ball after Müller had challenged the Kazakh keeper.
On another day, Germany might have pushed for a double-figures win but during the second half the players seemed content to go through the motions, conserving their energy perhaps for more important club fixtures ahead.
This laxness was almost punished as substitute Ulan Konysbaev struck the crossbar on 69 minutes and two minutes later Greuther Fürth’s Heinrich Schmidtgal forced Manuel Neuer into a fine save at his near post.
Those brief signs of life from the hosts served to raise Germany from their slumber. On 74 minutes, Müller slotted home after a one-two between Mesut Özil and Götze on the edge of the box. 3-0. Job done.
Kazakhstan have an immediate chance to avenge defeat in the return fixture on Tuesday evening in Nuremberg. The Kazakhs have about as much chance of exacting that revenge as Borussia Dortmund have of overhauling Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga.
Kazakhstan: Sidelnikov – Gorman, Logvinenko, Dmitrenko, Kirov – Nurdauletov, Dzholchiev – Baizhanov (Korobkin 36′), Khayrullin (Konysbaev 65′), Schmidtgal – Ostapenko (Geteriyev 82′)
Germany: Neuer – Lahm, Höwedes, Mertesacker, Schmelzer – Khedira (Gündogan 82′), Schweinsteiger – Müller (Schürrle 82′), Özil, Draxler (Podolski 19′) – Götze
Goals: Schweinsteiger (19′), Götze (22′), Müller (74′)
Attendance: 30,000 – Astana Arena.
Article originally published on The Munich Eye
Header courtesy of dpa
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