Germany coach Joachim Löw and his players reflected on a job well done after they booked their place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup following a 3-0 defeat of the Republic of Ireland.
The convincing win in Cologne, shaped by goals from Sami Khedira, André Schürrle and Mesut Özil, means the Nationalmannschaft will face Sweden in their final Group C fixture on Tuesday with the pressure off. Germany have scored 31 times and conceded just seven goals in nine matches, eight of which they have won, on the road to Brazil. Löw's view that his side had "played a great qualification round" summed up the feeling of contentment.
Aside from the remarkable 4-4 draw with Sweden 12 months ago, when Germany surrendered a four-goal lead at home, and nearly conceding a late equaliser in Austria, the three-time world champions' passage to next summer's finals was relatively smooth. "The team worked really well for one year," said captain Philipp Lahm. "We had several good matches in that spell."
Having come third at the previous two World Cups and finished runners-up at UEFA EURO 2008, not to mention a defeat by Italy in the semi-finals in Poland and Ukraine last year, Germany will be among the frontrunners again in South America.
However, Löw, who confirmed he is in talks with the German Football Association (DFB) regarding a contract extension, knows there are aspects of his side's play at both ends of the field that require fine-tuning. "We need to inject some more stability into our defence and our game in the final third needs to improve a bit," he said. "Out of nine qualification matches, we won eight, so we can be very happy with this."
Without injured strikers Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez, Löw fielded Özil up front against Ireland and, although a few chances were missed along the way, the view from the dressing room at full time was positive. "We were very well-prepared for this game," explained Schürrle. "We were patient, searched for the gaps and scored three goals. It was a well-deserved win."
Thomas Müller added: "It was a tough because the Irish were very industrious and basically only defended around their box, but I can understand why opponents dig themselves in against us. After all, it's not forbidden and is part of the game. We just need to find solutions and we're doing a good job at it."
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