BERLIN: Midfielder Leon Goretzka netted twice as Germany routed Azerbaijan 5-1 on Sunday to make history with a perfect World Cup qualifying record of 10 wins in as many games.
The reigning world champions had already sealed their ticket to Russia last Thursday with a 3-1 win over Northern Ireland, and finished their qualifying campaign in Kaiserslautern with a 10th straight victory.
This is the first time Germany have qualified for a World Cup finals with a perfect record and they are unbeaten in their last 16 games.
Joachim Low’s side are only the second team to achieve the feat in a European qualifying campaign after Spain managed it on their way to winning the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Germany also scored a European qualifying record 43 goals over the campaign.
Despite the comfortable scoreline, Low was unimpressed with the first-half display as his side went in 1-1 at the break.
“This line-up hadn’t played together before and you could see that in the first half,” he said. “The second half was better as the opposition tired. It would be a mistake to use this qualifying campaign as a benchmark – sure it was good – but the World Cup will be a different matter. It will be hard to win the World Cup for a second time.”
The victory came at the cost of two centre-backs, as Bayern Munich’s Niklas Suele and Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi both limped off with first-half injuries.
Mustafi suffered a suspected thigh injury, which Low said looks serious.
Schalke midfielder Goretzka gave Germany an early lead with a superb back-heeled goal before Azerbaijan striker Ramil Sheydaev stunned the hosts by equalising before half-time.
Second-half strikes from Hoffenheim striker Sandro Wagner and Chelsea defender Antonio Ruediger, before Goretzka added his second, saw Germany pull away.
Liverpool midfielder Emre Can added the fifth when he smashed home his first international goal with a powerful shot from outside the area.
The World Cup holders lost Julian Draxler before kick-off as the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder dropped out with flu, after Real Madrid star Toni Kroos had already been ruled out with a rib injury.
The hosts got off to a dream start when Goretzka showed great technique by netting with his heel and his back to goal on eight minutes.
Then came Germany’s injury blows.
Suele limped off on 22 minutes to be replaced by Chelsea’s Ruediger before Mustafi went down in the build-up to the equaliser.
The Germans should have doubled their lead with half an hour gone when Wagner hit the post.
Azerbaijan deservedly levelled on 34 minutes when Sheydaev sprinted clear of Mustafi — who pulled up injured.
Sheydaev then wrong-footed Ruediger and fired past Germany goalkeeper Bernd Leno to stun the hosts.
But Wagner put Germany back in the lead on 54 minutes thanks to Hawk-Eye.
Wagner’s header was cleared in a scramble, but goal-line technology showed the ball had crossed the line for his fifth international goal in as many games.
At 2-1 up, the floodgates opened when Ruediger hammered his header past Azerbaijani goalkeeper Kamran Agayev on 64 minutes.
Goretzka grabbed Germany’s fourth just two minutes later when he fired home Leroy Sane’s pass after some good work by the Manchester City winger.
The 23-year-old Can completed the scoring in style when he rifled a 30-yard strike into the roof of the net.
With time almost up, Azerbaijan defender Magomed Mirzabekov hit the post and Germany’s Matthias Ginter cleared a shot off the line.