Germany scored twice inside the first 10 minutes en route to a convincing 8-0 away victory over San Marino on Friday to maintain its place atop UEFA Group C qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
Sami Khedira opened the account for the Mannschaft in the seventh minute, and Serge Gnabry followed just two minutes later to quickly erase any upset dreams held by the overmatched home squad.
Gnabry ended up scoring a hat-trick in the victory. Jonas Hector added a brace, while Kevin Volland also found the net for Germany. San Marino's Mattia Stefanelli also scored an own goal.
Although the lopsided result was expected—Germany won the last two meetings by a combined 19-0 score—head coach Joachim Low warned his players before the match about overlooking an opponent that's improved defensively since those previous meetings, per Karolos Grohmann of Reuters.
"When you see when they concede goals it is in the 70th or 75th minute onwards. Until then they defend well and they trail 1-0 or so," he said Thursday. "The San Marino players learnt their trade in Italy, so they can defend rather well."
The Mannschaft appeared to take those words to heart as they came out aggressively, taking complete control of the fixture before San Marino had a chance to settle in.
Ilkay Gundogan set the stage for the opening tally by showcasing terrific vision to chip a pass over the top of a compact Serenissima back line. Khedira collected the delivery and used some nifty footwork to elude goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini before tapping the ball into the net for the early lead.
The sustained attacking pressure paid off again for Germany a few moments later, though a defensive miscue helped create the second goal.
Simoncini came off his line well to thwart a potential scoring chance for the Germans, but the clearing attempt by his twin brother, Davide Simoncini, went right onto the foot of Gnabry. The Werder Bremen midfielder made no mistake slotting his shot into the open net.
OptaFranz noted the goal earned the 21-year-old rising star a unique distinction:
Meanwhile, finding the net in his senior debut also sparked a series of reactions from Arsenal supporters similar to that of Scouted Football's Phil Costa:
Hector increased the lead to three for Germany shortly after the half-hour mark.
Mario Gotze collected a pass just outside the 18-yard box and attracted attention from three defenders before laying the ball off for the Cologne left back. Hector took one quick touch before slotting home his second international goal of the year. He also scored in a friendly against Italy in March.
All told, Germany held 76 percent of possession in the first half with 18 shot attempts, including nine on frame. San Marino failed to generate a single effort toward goal before the break.
The pitch remained heavily tilted in the direction of the German attack after halftime.
Gnabry remained the standout performer for the Mannschaft. He added goals in the 58th and 76th minute to complete the hat-trick. While the level of competition must be considered, it was still an impressive display as he attempted to prove his worth to the national team coaching staff.
Squawka Football spotlighted the midfielder's memorable first appearance:
Elsewhere on the crowded scoresheet: Hector added his second goal in the 65th minute, Stefanelli accidentally redirected a cross into his own net in the 82nd minute and Volland wrapped up the eight-goal outburst with a goal off an assist from Thomas Muller five minutes from time.
ESPN FC pointed out Germany joined a few of Europe's other marquee sides in the winner's circle during Friday's qualifying action:
Looking ahead, the Germans are now five points clear of their closest competition (Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan) in Group C. Although there are still six matches left in the stage, they should comfortably punch their World Cup ticket to Russia when the dust settles next October.
Next up for the Mannschaft is a friendly against Italy on Tuesday. It's unclear how close to full strength the talented sides will be after focusing on this week's qualifiers, but it should still serve as a much better test of Germany's current form than San Marino.
Meanwhile, the Serenissima are still looking for their first point in the group. They have allowed 17 goals and scored just one across the first four games. Their next chance for a positive qualifying result will come in March when they welcome the Czech Republic to San Marino Stadium.