Germany thrashed Azerbaijan, 5-1, on Sunday to become the first (of two possible) side to finish with a perfect 10-for-10 record during UEFA’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Switzerland, the only other side to win its first nine games, are away to Portugal on Tuesday. England, who won eight and drew two (26 points), were the next closest. Poland went 8W-1D-1L (25 points) in their 10 games.
Leon Goretzka put the defending world champions ahead after nine minutes, courtesy of a clever backheel into the upper-90, only for Joachim Loew’s side to be yanked back to level terms in the 34th minute. Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi suffered what appeared to be a thigh injury in the lead-up to the visitor’s equalizer. After the game, Loew revealed that Mustafi likely suffered a muscle tear, which will keep him out “for a long time.”
Sandro Wagner, Antonio Rudiger and Goretzka — all of whom played major minutes during this international break due to entrenched first-teamers being left out after having clinched their place at next summer’s tournament last window — each scored during a 12-minute stretch (54th to 66th) that blew the game wide open. Liverpool’s Emre Can provided the exclamation point with fewer than 10 minutes remaining, in the form of a seeing-eye rocket from 30 yards out.
Northern Ireland finished as runners-up in Group C and will make their way into the qualification playoffs scheduled for the final international window of the calendar year, next month.
Based on the upcoming edition of FIFA rankings, Germany will be seeded as a Pot 1 team for the World Cup draw on Dec. 1.