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Sports

Germans eye World Cup qualification with win over Ireland

If the truth be told, Germany's World Cup place was guaranteed when it drew one of Europe's weaker qualifying groups. Still, Joachim Löw's side can officially punch its Brazil ticket with a win against Ireland.

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Germany on verge of World Cup qualification

Germany's national football side could officially book a place at the 2014 World Cup with a win over the Republic of Ireland in Cologne on Friday evening. Even a draw might suffice to make their qualification - already effectively a certainty - official, depending on other results in the group.

In the prematch press conferences, Joachim Löw all but confirmed that 10 if his starting 11 - leaving only the left wing in doubt. Schalke youngster Julian Draxler and Chelsea's summer signing Andre Schürrle are expected to battle it out for that spot in the absence of injured regular Marco Reus and national team veteran Lukas Podolski.

An interesting player to watch will be Max Kruse, highly likely to start up front in just his fourth appearance for his country after an exceptional beginning to the Bundesliga season with his new club, Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Playmaker Mesut Özil, suddenly the toast of some London pubs since his transfer to Arsenal, will play in his 50th international game on Friday if selected - an impressive haul for any player, let alone a 24-year-old.

"I am proud of this number," Özil said ahead of the game, also saying he was optimistic despite the prospect of a motivated and defensively-oriented opponent. "We just need to play our own game, then I am convinced that we can take the three points." The bookmakers agree with Özil, especially with Germany on home turf.

Schweinsteiger's milestone next

Behind Özil, Bastian Schweinsteiger will inch ever closer to the 100-club by playing his 99th match for Germany. He could theoretically reach his century against Sweden in Solna next Tuesday. He would join his Bayern Munich teammate and captain Philipp Lahm, who reached 100 international appearances at Bayern's Allianz-Arena in a 3-0 win over Austria last month.

In Ireland earlier in the qualifying stage, Germany waltzed to a 6-1 win - but Löw was keen to stress that the Irish were more likely to be spurred on than disheartened by this past thrashing.

"They will keep fighting until their legs buckle, giving up will be out of the question. Ireland will not gift us the victory, anyone who's relying on that is barking up the wrong tree," Löw warned.

Surprisingly, seven wins and a draw from eight World Cup qualifying games has not yet proved sufficient to punch Germany's ticket ahead of schedule; should Joachim Löw's side make it eight wins on Friday, even second-placed Sweden would be out of the hunt for first position in Group C.

Kick-off in Cologne is at 20:45 local time (1845 UTC) on Friday, follow @dw_sports on Twitter for live coverage.

Probable Germany line-up: Manuel Neuer - Philipp Lahm (c.), Jerome Boateng, Per Mertesacker, Marcell Jansen - Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira - Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil, Julian Draxler/Andre Schürrle - Max Kruse.

msh/ph (dpa, SID)

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