The new Germany captain is leading from the front. Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer summed up the Germans' aspirations in a nutshell: "We have a clear goal: we want to be top of the group," the World's Best Goalkeeper said before the World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic on Saturday and Northern Ireland three days later. "Especially in the home matches we want to take the six points," the 30-year-old declared.
However, Joachim Löw issued a warning: the match against the Czechs, lying 33rd in the FIFA rankings, is not going to be a walkover. "They have players with individual quality and their ambition is surely to seal a spot at the 2018 World Cup," said the Germany head coach, calling the Czechs "our toughest opponents in the group."
Apart from the injured Mario Gomez, Löw has all his players at his disposal. FCB trio Joshua Kimmich, Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels will likely join Köln's Jonas Hector in a back four in front of Neuer. Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira will fill the holding positions, with Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil and probably Julian Draxler in front of them. Mario Götze is likely to act as a false nine up front.Top scorer Müller
"It's a real pity that Mario Gomez, a classic striker, is sidelined," said Neuer, "but we're flexible up front. It's not only our attacking players who are capable of scoring." Müller is the most successful marksman in the Germany squad for the last home matches of the year with 34 goals to his name. The 27-year-old fired a brace in the first World Cup qualifier, a 3-0 victory over Norway in Oslo.
Neuer hopes that "the attackers will gain confidence and shine with goals." On the road to the World Cup in Russia, with only the group winners qualifying directly, Neuer trusts the Germany head coach: "He's really improved the national team over the last few years," the netminder said, praising Löw, the only head coach he has ever worked with for Germany.
The match against the Czech Republic will be Löw's 140th fixture as Germany head coach. The 56-year-old will surpass Helmut Schön on 139 matches, remaining second only to Sepp Herberger on 167.