The end of the World Cup qualifiers is upon us. Sunday’s game in Kaiserslautern (20:45 CEST) sees Germany host Azerbaijan in game number ten. Head coach Joachim Löw and Die Mannschaft midfielder Leon Goretzka spoke about the qualifying campaign, the team for Sunday and the 2018 World Cup at today’s pre-match press conference.
...World Cup qualifying: We can be thoroughly satisfied. I thought the way the team went about their task right from the off, undoing Northern Ireland’s game plan straightaway, was very impressive. Nevertheless, qualifying isn’t over yet and we want to win our tenth game as well against Azerbaijan – that has to be the goal tomorrow.
...his team: There will be one or two changes. We’ve had a chat with the goalkeepers and Bernd Leno will start tomorrow. Emre Can will also start in defensive midfield, and I’m planning on giving Leroy Sané a chance up top as well. I gave the team some time off yesterday to unwind a little. Even though we won’t be quite as in tune as in previous matches, we’ll still be looking to put Azerbaijan under pressure early on.
...the 2018 World Cup: We’ve been thinking about Russia for some time. We’ll have to wait and see what the draw brings. After that, we’ll begin looking for friendly opponents. We won the tournament in Brazil by working as a team, and that’s what we’ll need to do again. We need to be just as hungry if we’re going to win. Only we as defending champions have something to lose, which doesn’t exactly make things any easier.
...comparisons to the 2014 World Cup: Our team has been one of the world’s best for many years now – this level of consistency is once in a lifetime. No matter who we play, we’re capable of winning comfortably, and that shows you just how much quality this team has. Marco Reus got injured in the final game before the tournament in 2014, and Sami Khedira had spent six months out before it. It threw us a little and we had to use the build-up to work things out. As things currently stand, we’re top of the world rankings because of what we’ve done in recent years. That doesn’t play any role next year though. It’s important to have a good preparation period, to have top players in form and for everyone to go into the tournament with the right mindset, ready to go above and beyond.
...Manuel Neuer’s injury: We’ll have to see how it develops. I hope that he can return to training as soon as possible, so then he can be back at his best in two or three months. He is very important for us. However, Marc-André ter Stegen has proven to be a solid alternative; he’s very composed and gets the job done. If you were going to put a goalkeeper after Manuel Neuer, it has to be ter Stegen. He has our full backing, as do Bernd Leno and Kevin Trapp.
...his role: I’m still growing into it. I’m very much at the beginning of my development; there’s still a lot for me to learn and experience.
...the 2018 World Cup in Russia: It’s in the back of everyone’s minds. We’re all hoping to impress the boss with our performances. Every game is an opportunity to stake your claim and find some form.