Germany vs Poland | Friday 04 September | Commerzbank Arena | 20:45
The business end of European qualifying has lent itself to some mouth-watering clashes this weekend. Group D has provided surprising intrigue, with reigning world champions Germany inexplicably losing to Poland in the reverse leg last year.
Germany’s inconsistent form, coupled with Gordon Strachan’s resurgent Scottish side, has left a host of permutations going into Friday’s clash in Frankfurt. Poland will be much the happier with a stalemate, while Scotland and indeed Ireland loom in the shadows for any negative result.
To Win (90mins)
Germany were without many of their star players the last time around, with Schweinsteiger, Gotze and Ozil notable absentees from the squad. Additionally, they were still dealing with the retirements of Lahm and Mertesacker, two crucial players in their pursuit of glory in Brazil. Joachim Louw will no doubt be looking towards their top scorer in qualifying - Thomas Muller - to extend his imperious goal-scoring form in international football. Howedes was also an absentee in the first fixture and his inclusion will bring far greater resilience to their new-look back four.
I would not be surprised if Louw chooses Khedira to partner captain Schweinsteiger in a holding role, considering the manner in which Sebastian Mila and Co. dominated the middle of the park. From there I would imagine he may play Kroos in a slightly advanced number ten role, with the talismanic figures of Gotze and Ozil flanking the effervescent Muller in attack. It is a potent attacking force, but much will depend on how much Poland allows the likes of Gotze and Ozil to dictate the pace, especially considering their somewhat dubious dual work rates.
Poland have gone undefeated in the group thus far, with four victories and two draws. They have championed a refreshingly enterprising approach under Nawalka, scoring twenty times in three games. Robert Lewandowski will clearly be the focal point of their attack. The Bayern Munich superstar has scored seven goals in qualifying thus far and has begun his domestic campaign in similarly threatening form. His role here will be even more vital than the home fixture, as he will be expected to hold the ball up adroitly, bringing the likes of Mila and Blaszczykowski into the game.
Blaszczykowski should offer some width in attack while Arkadiusz Milik has been fairly productive in qualifying himself, with four crucial goals thus far. I’m sure that Nawalka will be mindful of the threats posed by Germany, with Piszczek likely to partner Krychowiak in midfield. But Nawalka will not sit on his laurels and may well sense a growing vulnerability in this German set-up that his dynamic side can look to exploit.
VERDICT: Draw 42/10
The smart money is on Germany probably edging a hard fought win here, but I think it is worth a shot at Poland sneaking a point. Germany have been far from impressive in qualifying thus far, with a 1-1 draw against Ireland and a narrow 2-1 victory over Scotland to show for themselves. I’m sure that either Lewandowski or Muller will appear on the scoresheet, perhaps both will score in a 1-1 draw that will frustrate the partisan crowd.