A much-improved German side blew Norway away with a 6-0 win that makes it eight from eight in qualifying. The defending World Cup champions lived up to their billing but they’ve not yet booked their ticket to Russia.
Germany 6-0 Norway
(Özil 10', Draxler 17', Werner 21', 40', Goretzka 50', Gomez 79')
A devastating 11-minute spell helped Germany to an emphatic victory over a shellshocked Norway side on Monday night, as Joachim Löw’s men continued their relentless Group C campaign.
Northern Ireland’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic means the world champions still require a point in Belfast on October 5, or a win at home to Azerbaijan three days later, to make absolutely certain of their progress. But this was a performance that confirms that this is a squad capable of retaining the trophy.
Mesut Özil got things started with his first Germany goal for over a year. The Arsenal man picked the ball up deep and worked it to the left-hand side. He allowed his teammates to take over creative duties for a time before sweeping home Jonas Hector’s cutback from the left.
The hosts were in the mood, Thomas Müller and Timo Werner both going close immediately after the opener before Julian Draxler doubled the lead. Again, men in white worked the opportunity brilliantly, Werner nodding down Joshua Kimmich’s long ball before Özil found the Paris Saint-Germain winger, who turned his man before firing home.
Werner got in on the act himself moments later. Norway gave away a rare piece of possession in midfield and the RB Leipzig man finished off a low cross from the right. Despite pre-match fears that the forward would be booed at his old stomping ground, the only crowd sounds were joyous, with a Mexican Wave even breaking out before the half-hour mark.
The fans were up on their feet yet again just before the break, as Werner rose to head powerfully home from Müller’s cross. That was the last of the action from the Bayern Munich forward, who was replaced at the break by Leon Goretzka. The 22-year-old wasted no time making his mark, taking a leaf out of Werner’s book to nod home after Draxler dug out a cross from the right.
The final third of the game had the distinct feel of a testimonial as Germany stroked the ball around and introduced former Stuttgart players Sami Khedira and Mario Gomez in to the fray, much to the crowd’s delight. They were even happier when Gomez stooped to notch the third headed goal of the night.
While they can’t pop the corks on the champagne just yet, Germany know the bubbly won’t be on ice for long.
As it happened
Excellent from Germany, 6-0 really didn't flatter them. The full report will be here any second.
Just to confirm, with Northern Ireland winning, Germany won't qualify tonight but it's fair to say they can start checking Skyscanner for flights to Russia in June.
Norway can't wait for that whistle...
GOAL! There it is, number six. Mario Gomez the man this time. Another cross from the right, another header - this time complete with a dive.
This game has the air of a testimonial now. A few familiar old faces, a slow tempo, a party atmosphere in the crowd...
Not much to see here but England have recovered to lead Slovakia 2-1, Northern Ireland are still 2-0 up over the Czech Republic, Scotland are beating Malta and Cameroon v Nigeria finished 1-1.
No hat-trick for Werner tonight, he's replaced by Gomez, another ex-Stuttgart man.
Khedira is on for Rudy, much to the delight of the Stuttgart crowd. The German skipper left VfB Stuttgart in 2010 and made a lovely gesture before the game.
Hummels comes close. For Norway. King got free down the right and whipped in a cross that clipped the Bayern man but dropped wide of the post. The corner came to nothing. Khedira receiving some instructions on the German bench, we may see the skipper soon.
Norway had a shot! Repeat: Norway had a shot! It was wide, but still...
GOAL! Perhaps my 6-0 estimate was conservative... Goretzka with number five moments after coming off the bench. The Schalke man rose high to power a header in after Draxler dug out a cross from the right.
Germany pick up where they left off. Kroos with another decent chance but his shot is blocked. Hummels blasts the rebound over.
We're back underway in Stuttgart. I'm predicting 6 here. Goretzka on for Müller.
Well, that was comprehensive. Norway are flattered by a four goal deficit because Germany have been almost faultless.
But they're unlikely to seal qualification tonight, Northern Ireland are now 2-0 up against the Czech Republic. Chris Brunt with the second.
Kroos nearly gets his name on the scoresheet but Jarstein palms away his low drive.
GOAL! It had been a while.... Werner again. This time a great header from a Müller cross. Germany are rampant.
Germany have been as good tonight as they were bad on Friday. Özil, who has been excellent thus far, goes close again. Norway seem happy to defend very, very deep right now.
Northern Ireland lead against the Czech Republic through Jonny Evans. If that game stays that way, the Germans will have to put the champagne on ice.
There's a Mexican wave in Stuttgart now. Which tells you just how over this game is.
Guess what? Yep, another GOAL! Werner getting involved now. The former Stuttgart striker with a simple finish from a right wing cross. No audible boos at his old home either.
GOAL! Draxler this time. Another expertly manufactured goal from the world champions. Kimmich's long ball was nodded down by Werner to Özil then fed to Draxler who turned his man and curled home.
Werner with a half chance now but drags wide from a tight angle. On second viewing, maybe a quarter chance is more accurate.
Germany looking in the mood to qualify in style here. Özil had another chance shortly after the first and Müller has just pulled one wide from the edge of the box.
GOAL! Özil sweeps home from just inside the box. It was only a matter of time. The Arsenal man started the move from deep before meeting Hector's cutback from the left and stroking in to the far corner.
Germany absolutely bossing the ball here. It feels like it's only a matter of time. Over in London, England are already 1-0 down to Slovakia...
Big chance for Germany early on. Kroos sprays a long ball to Kimmich, who finds Müller with a no-look layoff. He crosses low to Werner who, um.... opts for an air shot. Not what you expect of him but encouraging signs.
And here we go!
Here's how the Norwegians line up. Josh King would seem to be the main danger to Germany.
While we wait for the players to emerge, here's what's happened, and is about to happen, elsewhere in tonight's European qualifiers.
A few changes from Löw, as he said there would be. Draxler is back, while Rudy partners Kroos in the middle. Rüdiger comes in for Ginter after coming off the bench on Wednesday but Khedira, who returns to the Mercedes Benz Arena for the first time since leaving Stuttgart in 2010, isn't fit enough for the starting eleven.
We now have the Germany team:
Tonight could be the night. If Germany beat Norway in Stuttgart and Northern Ireland fail to conquer the Czech Republic in Belfast, then the world champions will book their place in World Cup 2018.
The sides have met 21 times in total, with Germany winning 14 of those games. They did, however, lose the last time they hosted the Norwegians in a friendly in 2009.
Germany maintained their perfect record in qualifying against the Czech Republic on Friday but were unconvincing amid some ugly scenes in Prague. An unconvincing win would probably do for Löw tonight but a little bit of panache wouldn't go amiss.