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Germany crush 10-man Liechtenstein in FIFA World Cup qualifier

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Wolfsburg, Nov 12 (IANS) Germany reaped its eighth win after cruising Liechtenstein 9-0 at the FIFA World Cup qualifying round in Group J at the Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg. Underdog Liechtenstein caught the worst possible start against already qualified Germany as Jens Hofer fouled Leon Goretzka inside the box to cause a penalty with nine minutes gone. Ilkay Gundogan stepped up and made no mistake to break the deadlock.

Germany pressed and benefitted on its numerical advantage on Thursday evening as Liechtenstein’s Daniel Kaufmann cleared Christian Gunter’s cutback pass into the own goal on 20 minutes. The hosts made it three moments later as Leroy Sane made use of a through ball from Goretzka before unleashing a well-placed shot into the far post corner.

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Although Hansi Flick’s men had confirmed their slot at Qatar 2022, they pressed forward and made it 4-0 on the scoreboards in the 23rd minute when Marco Reus collected a loose ball before tapping home into the empty goal.

Liechtenstein couldn’t put up resistance, whereas the relentless Germans increased the pressure after the restart as Sane wrapped up his brace in the 48th by courtesy of Reus’s good build-up work, Xinhua reports. The hosts still were not done with the scoring and remained on the front foot as Liechtenstein couldn’t clear a corner allowing Thomas Muller to tap home a rebound from close range to make it six with 76 minutes into the game.

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Things went from bad to worse for Liechtenstein in the closing stages as Ridle Baku drilled the ball from the edge of the box into the far post corner with ten minutes remaining. Muller wrapped his brace six minutes later before Maximilian Goppel rounded off the 9-0 rout with an own goal in the dying minutes of the game.

With the result, Germany head coach Hansi Flick maintains his perfect record with six wins from six games. Germany stay first in Group J, followed by North Macedonia, Romania, Armenia, Iceland and winless Liechtenstein.

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“I am satisfied with the performance of my team. When you score so many goals and are cheered on like that, then, of course, it is very nice,” Flick said. “It was a great atmosphere today hence we wanted to score as many goals as possible. We had many opportunities but of course the early sending-off played into our cards,” Germany midfielder Thomas Muller said.

Meanwhile, Flick is far from happy, possibly having to make a delicate decision for the upcoming year. COVID-19 infection numbers are growing in international sports, and the German coach might have to consider only appointing fully-vaccinated players.

Around the 2022 World Cup qualifier against Liechtenstein on Thursday night, the pandemic’s effects caught up on Joachim Low’s successor. “I have to think about how we deal with this topic,” the former Bayern coach said after five of his players had to leave the team headquarters for quarantine after a positive test of fully-vaccinated Bayern defender Niklas Sule.

Serge Gnabry, Karim Adeyemi, Jamal Musiala, and Joshua Kimmich were sent home as first-degree contacts of Sule indicates and the quartet until now refused to be vaccinated. According to German health rules, non-vaccinated persons have to attend quarantine for at least seven days despite a negative test.

While the German association referred to data privacy, not clarifying the players’ vaccination status, increasing problems in football came to light. “I hope we don’t face this problem again, having to send five players home due to COVID-19,” Flick said.

The German coach mentioned vaccination isn’t mandatory in Germany. “But we all are role models for many people. For me taking the jab is the only way to control the pandemic.” A coach prefers all players to be vaccinated, he added.

Flick might have thought about similar incidents possibly creating turbulences in the weeks ahead of Qatar 2022. While only vaccinated or recovered fans were allowed in the Wolfsburg arena, like in several German stadiums, employees in Germany can rely on the three-G model according to worker rights. They either need to take the jab, provide a recovery document, or a negative test.

Like any other professional sport, football enjoys a prominent position, Flick said, setting a new starting record as a German coach. He mentioned football’s responsibility after his sixth consecutive victory. “Not only does the association need to make a decision but clubs such as Bayern Munich (as well).”

The Bavarians so far only announced they favour vaccinations of their players but refused to demand it as compulsory. While German athletes competing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are fully vaccinated, German club football suffers from several protagonists refusing it.

Several clubs have to deal with players, not available for competition in the Bundesliga due to quarantine orders after being tested positive. Bayern will intensify talks with players about the topic. Media talk of club concerns of possibly having to run games in the Champions League without the best squad.

Flick is annoyed by the turbulences after he was forced to change his squad and skip training sessions and team meetings. “We had other plans as we currently meet for the last games in 2021,” Flick stated while his predecessor and 2014 World champion coach Low enjoyed the warm applause of 26000 fans for his official farewell.

The coach can’t be happy about the latest development and Oliver Bierhoff’s nebulous statement. The national team manager said: “We might have to live with the players’ decision.” As it seems, not only Flick has a problem with that attitude.

–IANS

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