Many Germany players who won the Confederations Cup in July have continued to get playing time. In their final World Cup qualifier, those players made the difference as Germany completed a perfect qualification.
Nine of the 11 players who started for Germany against Azerbaijan on Sunday were part of the Confed Cup squad – the exceptions were Thomas Müller and Leroy Sané. Additionally, all the players who scored in their 5-1 victory in the Fritz Walter Stadium in Kaiserslautern were Germany’s Confederations Cup stars.
Some of the casual Germany fans may not know many of these players’ names yet, but in 2017 they really made a name for themselves.
“It’s nice to be part of the team. We have a lot of great young players, great old players. We have about 40 or 50 players in the national team,” forward Julian Brandt told DW after the game. “We had a good Confederations Cup and a good qualification.”
But it’s not just the amount of talent Germany has that got the job done, but also the way in which they got on with each other. Emre Can made just his fourth career international start in midfield, and yet he was controlling the play in front of Germany’s defense. Bundesliga veteran Lars Stindl earned his first Germany cap in June, and he was often directing traffic, pointing to where the ball should go.
Germany coach Joachim Löw rarely left the bench during the game, even when Germany was struggling early. Since the players have already had success together, they knew what they had to do to complete Germany’s perfect qualifying record – 10 wins in 10 games.
A new camaraderie
With several Germany stars from the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 European Championship still injured, Löw has continued to rely on the Confed Cup players in World Cup qualification. Against Azerbaijan, having players familiar with each other was key to turning the game around.
“It helped a little bit that it wasn’t the first time that we played together,” midfielder Leon Goretzka told DW.
Germany lost two of their defenders – Niklas Süle and Shkodran Mustafi – to injury in the first half and were tied with Azerbaijan going into the break. But the players really took hold of the game in the second half, breaking open Azerbaijan’s conservative defense with combinations and coordinated runs.
“We know each other. We had a lot of fun at the Confed Cup and we had success there,” Joshua Kimmich told DW.
“We knew that we could play well together. We didn’t play very well in the first half but the second half was much better.”
Competition for World Cup spots
In the two World Cup qualifiers Germany played in October, Löw used 21 of the 22 players in his squad – only Kevin Trapp, the third string goalkeeper, did not see the field. Löw also has several other World Cup and Euro 2016 stars – some because of injuries but several others because of the team’s squad depth.
That makes for a lot of competition for spots in Löw’s World Cup squad, which only has 23 spots. Not all of these Confederation Cup performers are going to return to Russia in June, but Kimmich said he hoped many of them come along.
“We had a lot of success together, but I know that we have a lot of good players who won the World Cup,” Kimmich told DW. “But I hope we have a lot of players from the Confed Cup because we played good football – a good style of football – and I hope we can continue like this.”