Timo Werner made a face that suited the rainy weather, as did Thomas Müller. There were five minutes left in the first half in Skopje and Serge Gnabry had just tried something that he had done very well against Romania. But this time he didn’t hit the ball properly with his shot from around 20 meters, it bumped past the goal, and Werner and Müller were possibly wondering whether he would not have been better off with them.
The search for the last pass turned out to be a tedious affair for the German national soccer team on Monday evening against North Macedonia for one half. As a result, the final step towards the World Cup in Qatar next year required perseverance and patience. In these virtues, however, the German team has not come up with anything since Hansi Flick has been in charge, and so the fifth game under the new national coach also resulted in a well-deserved victory, the associated qualification for the World Cup in Qatar – and on top of that in a nice personal story.
After Kai Havertz’s opening goal in the 50th minute, it was the much-criticized and unsettled Werner who scored two more goals within a few minutes (70th and 73rd) and smiled all over his face with the first one. Jamal Musiala made it 4-0 (83rd), and thanks to the Romanian 1-0 victory over Armenia, the last theoretical hook has also been eliminated, the German team thus participating in the World Cup, which begins on November 21 next year .
Flick: “We can be satisfied”
“The result was perfect. We wanted to qualify as soon as possible. You have to compliment the team on the attitude. We were very consistent after the first goal. So we can be satisfied, ”said Flick on RTL. This November there are two more international matches, which are officially qualifying matches, but may now primarily serve other purposes, on November 11 in Wolfsburg against Liechtenstein and three days later in Armenia. In Wolfsburg, Flick’s predecessor, Joachim Löw, will then also say goodbye.
As is well known, Löw said goodbye to the World Cup qualification in March of this year with a 1: 2 against North Macedonia, a disgrace that German football does not often experience. Flick’s first focus was on qualifying as quickly as possible, which he achieved with five wins in five games, creating a spirit of optimism that makes you want more. She also convinced against North Macedonia with the right attitude and enthusiasm for work, even if not everything worked out at the beginning.
“Refill without slacking off” was the motto that Flick gave on the RTL microphone before the game. The national coach changed the starting line-up to five positions compared to the 2-1 win against Romania. Manuel Neuer returned as expected after adductor problems, and Flick also rebuilt the back four vigorously. Antonio Rüdiger was out with back problems, for him Thilo Kehrer moved to the side of Niklas Süle in the center, the only remaining constant.
The external positions were completely new with David Raum and Lukas Klostermann. On the right, the Leipziger Klostermann was supposed to ensure stability, on the left with the Hoffenheim room, which played for the first time from the start, “going off the rails,” as Flick said. In the offensive department, Müller, the winning goal scorer against Romania, took over the position of number ten from Marco Reus, Havertz started instead of Leroy Sané. As announced, Flick did not shake Werner.
In toto, this meant a reflection of the play system from the Romania game, Gnabry had benefited from a lot of free space and also used it, now it was Havertz on the other side. The man from Chelsea was involved in the first two dangerous actions, each with flanks from the left. But both Joshua Kimmich and Müller did not put enough pressure behind the ball with their headers. The German team was dominant, they worked doggedly on the lead, the counter-pressing brought some promising ball conquests, but like against Romania they did with the final actions difficult, after half an hour Gnabry stumbled the best counter opportunity.
And the efforts of the North Macedonians should not be underestimated either. More often than the flick could please, they appeared near Neuer’s goal, not least in the person of Eljif Elmas, the man from SSC Napoli, who scored the winning goal in Duisburg in March. It would have been a nice punchline in stoppage time in the first half if Werner had put the German team in the lead, he had forgiven the possible victory in March, but from close range he only hit the post.
The fact that the Romanians led against Armenia could only be fine with the Germans, and after just five minutes they put their hands on the tickets themselves. Müller interrupted an attack by the North Macedonians with his head, he immediately looked for the way forward and was served by Gnabry from the depths so precisely that he only had to cross in front of goalkeeper Dimitrievski. The goal immediately brought a note of ease into the German game, especially since the North Macedonians no longer defended with the same concentration.
After an hour, Flick brought Florian Wirtz and Karim Adeyemi for Havertz and Goretzka, two men of the future, so to speak. But now it was time for Werner to show that this might also be his. The number one goal was achieved with force after Müller’s strong preparatory work, while on the second he laid the ball for a remarkable flick. A preliminary work by Adeyemis put Musiala, who was also substituted on, into the net at the end.