Germany vs. Republic of Ireland: 6 Things We Learned
Germany ensured their qualification for the 2014 World Cup on Friday night with a 3-0 win over the Republic of Ireland at the Rhein Energie Stadion in Cologne.
Although this match was never expected to be the most thrilling of affairs in Germany's march to World Cup qualification, it did eventually prove an important test in not only the national side's ability to qualify, but Joachim Low's ability as a coach to alter and rotate his squad whilst keeping a consistent level of excellence.
With a number of injuries reported earlier in the week to star players such as Marco Reus and both Sven and Lars Bender, Low was forced to rethink any plans he had initially prepared for the match. As such, Arsenal's Mezut Ozil was chosen as the makeshift lone striker, while Chelsea's Andre Schurrle slotted in to a starting position on the left-hand side of the attack.
Yet, such setbacks proved inefficient, as Low's side walked to their seventh win of the year with a relative sense of ease and comfort as Ireland struggled to handle the sheer quality on show in western Germany on the night.
Click "Begin Slideshow" to see what six points we took from this momentous night for the German national team.
Philipp Lahm Is Essential to Germany's Attack
When Germany's starting XI was initially announced, the discussion quickly turned to just who would put the sword to Ireland first. Would it be Thomas Muller, Ozil or Schurrle before too long?
Yet what too many still don't consider is the changing role of this babyfaced predator and what the Bayern full-back has truly become—an outstanding playmaker. As Muller drifted in to the centre of the pitch and Ozil continued to cut back, it was Lahm who was dancing past Irish defenders and crossing the dangerous balls in time after time.
As such, it comes as no surprise that the defender/midfielder was the very man who set up Sami Khedira for his opening goal. Lahm is a changed man and one of Germany's best playmakers.
Low Still Chasing Striker-Less Dream
Of course, the most notable feature of Joachim Low's starting XI was the absence of any clear striker, as Ozil braved the brand new world of lone striker against the Irish.
Yet, this in itself comes as no surprise since the coach did, of course, only announce one striker in his 23-man squad, Max Kruse from Gladbach, who naturally has little experience in the national team and was not expected to make the move up so quickly.
However, this does offer us interesting insight into the mind of Low. Stefan Kiessling, Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose were all injured, but if they weren't, would they have featured at all? It's a question we may have to wait until next summer to answer, but it's something to ponder over for the time being.
Andre Schurrle Continues His Growth as a Player
In much the same fashion as Lahm bombarding down the right wing, it was the role of Chelsea's new star winger, Schurrle, to terrorise the Irish left, as he continuously troubled Seamus Coleman with his notorious speed and directness.
In his breakout season, in the English Premier League, under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, it was important to see the young player truly grasp the opportunity he was given Friday night, in the absence of Marco Reus, with a fine performance that ultimately resulted in a wonderful goal.
Any tales of this player's demise or alienation once he moved to England certainly seem poorly advised.
Khedira Continues Strong Role for Germany
Throughout Germany's past year of competitive and friendly matches alike, no player has remained a mainstay in the middle of the national team's starting 11 quite like Sami Khedira.
As one-half of the formidable partnership that did so well in Euro 2012, Khedira has gone from strength to strength under Low and remains to this day one of the first names on his team sheet in each important match.
Although the debate over Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan continues to rumble on, very few Germany fans will argue with the concept that Khedira is a vital cog in the team machine.
No Dortmund Players Featured in the Win
In Friday's 3-0 win over Ireland, there wasn't a single Dortmund player in the starting Germany squad.
It's a minor point of course when we consider the context of why this may be, but it is something worth picking up on when discussing the match that ensured Germany qualified for the next World Cup.
Mats Hummels is, of course, the major discussion point when we talk about Low's preferred central defenders as the Dortmund player has recently been deemed not good enough, through recent form, to represent his country, while the rest of Jurgen Klopp's men are simply injured.
Again, not a major point to dwell on, but worth noting as the dynamics of a squad that used to be a simple pick and choose between Dortmund and Bayern slowly changes.
Germany Are Going to the World Cup!
The biggest and most important point of the night: Germany are going to the World Cup!
Although qualification was never really in doubt for Die Mannschaft, as they comfortably sauntered to the top of Group C, with 25 points from a possible 27 against the likes of Sweden and Austria, the world was in constant watch and anticipation of any possible slip-ups or upsets along the way.
In a sport that can define a manager's career in three games, never mind two years of qualifying, Joachim Low has done exceptionally well to maintain a standard of excellence that was placed upon this side from a very early point to win this group comfortably.
Now the real preparation begins for next summer's World Cup—where expectation is at its highest for Low and Germany to not only participate honourably but to come home with the trophy in hand.