Germany finished their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a 100% record after recovering from a poor first half to record a 5-1 victory over Azerbaijan.
An audacious opener from Leon Goretzka was cancelled out by Ramil Sheydaev, however there were goals from Sandro Wagner, Antonio Rüdiger and Emre Can, plus another for Goretzka, as Die Mannschaft put in a more convincing display in the second half.
That meant the holders had won all ten of their games to secure their passage to Russia, whilst the 43 goals they scored in the campaign was a record in European qualification for either the World Cup or European Championship.
Sheydaev equalises after sloppy German display
With qualification assured after the 3-1 victory in Northern Ireland on Thursday, Joachim Löw unsurprisingly took the chance to play some of his fringe players, with only four players retained in the starting line-up. Azerbaijan, whose slim hopes of finishing in third rested on San Marino beating the Czech Republic (the Czechs would win 5-0), made four changes. Dmitri Nazarov, who scored in the reverse fixture and plays his club football in Germany for Erzgebirge Aue, was amongst those to drop out.
Germany wasted little time in taking control. After Badavi Hüseynov beat Wagner to a Julian Brandt cross they won the corner from which they scored. Nikas Süle couldn’t get his head to the ball whipped in by his Bayern Munich teammate Joshua Kimmich, but after a deflection of Gara Garayev, it fell to Goretzka, who scored with a stunning back-heel.
Given the circumstances it was a relaxed approach from Germany, which showed at the back on occasion. Richard Almedia was close to scoring soon after Azerbaijan went behind, but Süle, who would soon have to go off injured, did enough to stop him from shooting. Good work from Lars Stindl and Thomas Müller though gifted a chance to Wagner to make it two. Kamran Agayev got a vital touch on his shot though, sending it onto the post, before it went wide back off the Germany striker.
Sheydaev would then equalise for Azerbaijan. He took advantage as Mustafi injured himself trying to chase a loose ball, coming all the way into the box, getting the better of Antonio Rüdiger, and getting the ball past Leno, who got a touch but couldn’t stop it going in at his near post. Mustafi’s night was over as Germany had to replace another member of their back three before the break.
Wagner could have then restored their lead, but saw his close-range header kept out by Agayev. Leory Sané should have scored in stoppage time, as Kimmich’s free-kick fell to him, but instead his shot across goal went well wide, summing up a frustrating first half for the world champions.
Embed from Getty Images
Can stunner caps rampant second half display
Germany made a lively start to the second half. Found by Kimmich, Brandt was denied by Agayev before then poking wide, whilst Azerbaijan struggled to clear despite Wagner not connect with a Sané cross. He did connect to a Brandt cross soon after, heading towards goal, however Rusian Abışov appeared to head it off the line. Wagner was convinced he scored, and the goal-line technology soon kicked in to vindicate him. Germany led again.
Things were starting to get easier for them. Stindl put a shot into the post, but after Sané, who was impressing, won a corner, Rüdiger was able to make it three. His header from Kimmich’s corner though took a big deflection off Hüseynov before going in. It was on target just enough to give the Chelsea man a goal.
His mistake almost straight after though gifted a chance to Javid Hüseynov, however he hit his shot straight at Leno. Then it was his turn to make a mistake, giving the ball away to Brandt, and Germany punished it. Brandt found Sané, who crossed in for Goretzka to put in his second of the night, and Germany’s fourth.
With victory now certain, Can almost made it five with a good strike that was tipped over the bar by Agayev. Ten minutes later he tried again with an even better effort, which this time caught Agayev wrong-footed. It was a superb goal for Can to open his account for Germany, making it 5-1.
Azerbaijan had been blown away, but did come close to adding another goal as a consolation. Magomed Mirzabekov struck the post for them, before the ball went off the chest of Sheydaev was put back towards goal by substitute Nazarov, however Matthias Ginter kept that out off the line. Even if either of them had scored, the game was long since won by Germany.