With an expanded European Championships coming next summer, all of the top sides are expected to qualify with ease.
Two automatic qualifying spots means the likes of France, England and Italy will progress with relative ease – the only exception is an under-performing Netherlands side, who sit third but could still seal top spot with four games remaining.
Germany are no exception.
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The world champions are handily placed ahead of Scotland in Group D and will likely book their place for France 2016 with few problems. But Friday’s game with Poland is a vital match for Germany in many respects - not least for their manager, Joachim Löw.
INDIFFERENT FORM SINCE WORLD CUP WIN
Their World Cup win in Brazil was rightly revered as the Germans looked to herald in a new era of player.
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They had done it ‘the right way’ in many people’s eyes – using a domestic league that encourages homegrown players and promoting the best talent from a highly successful string of youth sides.
From there they were expected to cement their position as the world’s best but it has not been plain sailing for Löw and his countrymen.
The reverse fixture against Poland in October last year will act as a catalyst for revenge in Friday’s encounter.
It should have been a wake-up call – after all, it was their first competitive defeat in 19 games and first qualifying loss in 33 fixtures. It was also Poland’s first victory against Germany.
But Die Mannschaft have been in sluggish form since. A late John O’Shea equaliser condemned them to a point against Ireland and followed it up by only putting four past hapless Gibraltar at Nurnberg’s Grundig Stadion, prompting Löw to say:
"I am everything but satisfied with this. The team did not do what we wanted to do.”
They have won both group matches since, including a 7-0 win in Gibraltar, yet managed unconvincing performances in losing to the USA and drawing with Australia in home friendlies.
REASONS FOR THEIR LAPSE
Experimental formations and a number of player changes, particularly in friendly matches, may well have created part of their inconsistencies.
As yet, there has been no successor at right back following Phillip Lahm’s international retirement. Sebastian Rudy has deputised but the manager has also experimented with three central defenders.
An injury to Benedikt Howedes also led to appearances for Roma’s new signing Antonio Rüdiger, Jonas Hector and Shkodran Mustafi as Löw rings the changes.
Their defensive instability against lesser teams means Howedes’ imminent return, plus a rediscovery of form by Mats Hummels, may come at a good time.
Miroslav Klose’s international retirement also creates a void as yet unfilled up front. André Schürrle’s absence through injury leaves Max Kruse and Kevin Volland as the latest squad’s two recognised strikers, both of whom are unproven at full international level.
A good win would be a marker of intent in this new season, a sign that Germany are back to their best; anything less could spell some tough times ahead.
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