Germany made a comfortable start to their World Cup qualifying campaign as early goals from Leon Goretzka and Kai Havertz paved the way for a 3-0 win over Iceland. News of Joachim Low’s upcoming departure after the Euros dominated the build-up to Germany’s Group J opener, though a vibrant performance proved the quality the outgoing boss has at his disposal heading into his final tournament.
Goretzka and Havertz had Germany 2-0 up after just seven minutes – the quickest Die Mannschaft have been two goals ahead in a competitive match since May 1969, when Gerd Muller and Wolfang Overath struck against Cyprus.
In-form Ilkay Gundogan arrowed in his 13th goal of 2021 for club and country midway through the second half, wrapping up a convincing triumph.
A 6-0 defeat to Spain rounded off a frustrating 2020 for Germany, but they made a fantastic start to 2021. Iceland had only touched the ball twice by the time Goretzka drilled home the opener from the centre of the area – Serge Gnabry having cushioned Joshua Kimmich’s lofted pass into the midfielder’s path.
Kimmich was the architect of Germany’s second goal five minutes later with a wonderful throughball to release Leroy Sane, who squared for Havertz to finish coolly.
52 – After just 7 minutes, it has been @DFB-Teams quickest 2 goal lead in a competitive game for 52 years – in may 1969 Gerd Müller and Wolfgang Overath only needed 5 minutes in a world-cup-qualifier against Cyprus. Quickstarter. #GERISL pic.twitter.com/zFaR5sgFpJ
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) March 25, 2021
Germany’s lead seemed set to be halved when Runar Mar Sigurjonsson’s shot took a wicked deflection off Antonio Rudiger but the ball dropped inches wide.
Kimmich should have had an assist to his name prior to half-time, only for Rudiger to head wide from the midfielder’s inch-perfect cross.
Aron Gunnarsson could have done better with a free header shortly after the interval, and any lingering Iceland hopes were swiftly dashed when Gundogan found the bottom-left corner.
Havertz had a goal disallowed for offside and Gnabry hit the post after latching onto another sublime Kimmich pass, but there was no further punishment for new Iceland coach Arnar Vidarsson.
What does it mean? Youthful Germany stamp their authority on Group J
Romania, Liechtenstein, North Macedonia and Armenia accompany Germany and Iceland in Group J, and Low’s team really should qualify with ease.
Much has been made of Low’s decision to dispense with some heroes of Germany’s recent past, but this youthful version looks like a platform from which to build. The starting XI had an average age of just under 24, while 18-year-old Bayern Munich prodigy Jamal Musiala, who was also eligible for England, made his debut from the bench.
As far as midfield maestros go, there are few better than Kimmich in world football, and the Bayern star had all his quality on display in a sensational individual display.
He finished the match with a total of 163 attempted passes, at a 92 per cent accuracy – in contrast, Iceland’s entire team only played 226 (Germany tallied up 1053). Kimmich had a game-high 176 touches, 135 more than Gunnarsson, who had the ball the most for Iceland.
No Gylfi, big problems
Gylfi Sigurdsson was granted leave from Iceland’s camp, with his wife due to give birth to the pair’s first child in the coming days.
Without their playmaker and second-highest goalscorer, Iceland only managed two attempts on target, with neither truly testing Manuel Neuer, and the few set-pieces they managed to win were unusually blunt.
A trip to Romania comes next for Germany on Saturday, while Iceland take on Armenia.