KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany (Reuters) - Germany crushed Azerbaijan 5-1 on Sunday with talented Leon Goretzka scoring twice, to complete a record-equalling World Cup qualifying campaign with ten wins out of ten matches.
Germany, who had already secured qualification for next year’s finals in Russia, needed an hour to hit their stride despite an early lead through the 22-year-old Goretzka, already a target for several top European clubs.
They made sure of the three points and a maximum 30 in Group C with a strong second-half performance, scoring four more goals after an unexpected Azeri equalizer.
The Germans equaled Spain’s record from the 2008-9 qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup with their 10th victory but they could boast an even better goal difference than the Spaniards.
Joachim Loew’s world champions dominated their group to such an extent that they scored 43 goals — on average, more than four per game — while conceding just four.
In contrast, Vicente del Bosque’s Spanish charges of 2008-9, who went on to win the World Cup in South Africa, scored 28 and conceded five.
“Overall it would be a mistake to take this qualification as the standard. We did it well, great, 10 wins, best goal difference,” Loew said.
“But at the World Cup next year it will be a completely different caliber of teams and we should stay grounded.”
Germany, with seven changes to the lineup after the 3-1 win in Belfast against Northern Ireland that secured their qualification, went ahead through Goretzka’s superb and powerful eighth-minute backheel.
After that, the new-look side struggled for a long period to find any rhythm.
“It was difficult at the start. We had not played with such a lineup before,” Loew said. “The young players need some time to find their footing in a game.”
Sandro Wagner should have doubled the lead on the half-hour mark but his casual effort was palmed onto the post by the keeper.
Instead it was the hosts who scored, briefly stunning the home crowd, when Ramil Sheidaev fired in from a tight angle to complete a quick break in the 34th minute.
Loew’s initial plans to use the game as a first test en route to their title defense went out the window with first-half injuries to defenders Niklas Suele and Shkodran Mustafi.
Mustafi could be out for some time with a suspected right thigh muscle tear, Loew said.
Yet his team quickly finished off the game with Wagner grabbing his fifth goal in his fifth international in the 54th minute and Antonio Ruediger scoring 10 minutes later.
The 22-year-old Goretzka then slipped into the box to tap in his second goal of the evening in the 66th minute as the Azeri defense collapsed before Emre Can capped the rout with a thundering 25-metre strike nine minutes from time.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ian Chadband