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Germany out to keep perfect World Cup qualifying record intact

Coach Joachim Löw has again stressed that every player will have to earn his spot in the squad that travels to Russia next summer. Germany are unbeaten going into their qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Norway.

A win for Germany in Prague on Friday, their first international of the season, would put them on the verge of securing their ticket for the finals of the 2018 World Cup, and coach Joachim Löw and his men are determined to add to their perfect record of six wins from six in European qualifying.

However, at the prematch press conference, Löw stressed that Germany would be taking nothing for granted in the Czech capital.

'Strongest opponents in the group'

"The Czechs are our strongest opponents in the group, they have their backs to the wall and have good players in their squad. That says everything about the situation," he said.

The coach, who has nominated just seven members of his 2014 World Cup-winning team for this international break, confirmed that first-choice players Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos and Mesut Özil would start on Friday night after having sat out the Confederations Cup earlier this summer. He said he also planned to included Joshua Kimmich, Jonas Hector and Timo Werner in the lineup, all three of whom helped Germany win the Confed Cup in Russia. Hoffenheim's Serge Gnaby is out with an ankle injury, while a knee problem has made Sami Khedira doubtful.

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen is set to start between the sticks in the absence of the captain, Manuel Neuer, who is still recovering from a foot fracture.

'No free tickets'

Löw also used Thursday's press conference to stress, just as he had when the team met in Stuttgart on Tuesday, that Friday's match as well as the one at home to Norway on Monday, would mark the start of each player's personal campaign to convince him that they should be part of the team he takes to Russia.

"There is no player who has a free ticket for the World Cup," Löw said. "They have to deliver good performances, they have to know what their goals for the season are. The past counts for nothing in football. You have to invest to be ready next year."

Pressekonferenz Fußball-Nationalmannschaft Mats Hummels (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Woitas)

Bayern Munich and Germany center back Mat Hummels

Competition to make team 'not a bad thing'

One of the members of the 2014 World Cup squad, Mats Hummels, told reporters that the coach's demand that he and other veterans earn their ticket to Russia could only make the team stronger.

"Yes, we have to (prove ourselves) a little bit," Hummels said. "But it is not a bad thing. It was the same some years ago when we, the then (2009) under-21 European champions, put pressure on those already in the senior team. It helps that everyone is at 100 percent because there is not one but three or four talented players waiting in the wings."

With his selection of 17 players from the Confed Cup team Löw also sent a clear message that the veterans would have to fight for their places. He has also stressed that all will be given ample opportunity in the coming months to play themselves into or out of the squad he takes to Russia with the goal of defending their World Cup title.

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