A late goal kept Germany’s perfect qualification record alive, but they struggled against a spirited Czech side. Joachim Löw's men were far from convincing but have almost secured a World Cup spot.
Czech Republic 1-2 Germany
(Darida 78' - Werner 4', Hummels 88')
For all the talk of Germany’s new generation of Confederations Cup and under-21 Euros winners, it was the familiar faces who did the real damage in Prague on Friday night.
It was one of the new men who broke the deadlock though, as Timo Werner gleefully took advantage of some great work from the old guard.
First Mats Hummels stepped in to intercept a pass on the halfway line with such impressive anticipation that he was able to find Mesut Özil with a first-time pass. The Arsenal man, who reveled in the extra space he was afforded, delivered a pass to Werner who’d peeled away to find a yard of space in the box and took a touch before poking home.
But the world champions were far from comfortable. Marc Andre ter-Stegen was forced in to smart saves either side of the break as the Czechs went toe-to-toe with their more fancied opponents.
Despite the hosts’ surprisingly accomplished display, an equalizer felt increasingly unlikely as the half wore on. But Vladimir Darida hadn’t read the script. The Hertha Berlin man found a pocket of space about 30 yards out and arrowed a sensational drive in to the far corner.
With Germany struggling for rhythm, the Czechs sensed a shock could be on the cards but in the dying minutes Joachim Löw’s men demonstrated the mental fortitude that made them world champions. Again, it was the experienced men that stepped up when they were most needed. Toni Kroos whipped a central free kick to the back post where Hummels rose highest to arc home a header and maintain Germany’s perfect qualification record. But they were made to work for it.
As it happened:
90+4 -- That's it. Germany make it 7 from 7. But it was far from convincing. Match report to follow soon.
90+2' -- The Czechs have a free kick just outside the box. Darida goes for goal but can't keep it down. That might be that.
88' -- GOAL! Hummels surely wins it for Germany. A beautifully dinked free kick from Kroos found the defender at the back post. He had plenty to do but arced a header in. That's why they're champions.
84' -- Are the Czechs happy with this? It keeps them alive in the group but there might never be a better time to beat a big side. Germany have been pretty poor this evening,
78' GOAL! Darida with an absoutely sensational strike. The Hertha Berlin man was fed the ball 30 yards out and let rip with an arrow that flew past ter-Stegen. The Czechs have utterly deserved that.
70'-- What looked like a comfortable game for Germany early on has been anything but in this half. They've created very little of note.
68'-- Stindl off, Draxler on.
61' -- Brandt withdrawn for Rüdiger, which is a sign of both the way the game is going and Brandt's anonymity tonight. It's fair to say he has been playing out of position though.
58'-- Hard to disagree with the official German team account here. But it must be said this is fairly drab stuff.
54'-- First change for the Czechs. Krejci on for Kopic.
50' -- ter-Stegen called in to action again. The Barcelona keeper does well to hold a deflected drive from Soucek. He adjusted his feet well to get down to that.
49' -- Germany can't afford to be complacent here. The Czechs have shown enough going forward to suggest they could nick something. But an early attack comes to nothing before Stindl drives straight in to the keeper's arms from distance.
46'-- The players are back out and we're underway in the second half.
Time for a few other scores from the European qualifiers. England are being held 0-0 in Malta, Scotland lead Lithunia 2-0. In Germany's group Norway are 1-0 up against Azerbaijan but Northern Ireland haven't found a breakthrough in San Marion. There's a potential shock in Africa where Cape Verde Islands lead South Africa 2-1.
45' -- Another chance for the Czechs as Gabre Selassie receives the ball in acres on the right side of the box. But the Bremen man blazes over. That was so poor it's hard to tell if it was a shot or a cross. And that's HALF TIME.
43'-- Germany's skipper Müller goes in to the book after tugging back Böril as he broke down the left. The Bayern man wasn't helped by a sloppy ball from Özil there.
41' -- Darida lets fly from long range but he pulls it harmlessly wide.
38' -- It's all pretty pedestrian at the minute, Germany keeping the Czechs at arm's length. You suspect they'd be happy to keep it like this and then punish their opponents on the break later on.
34' -- First booking goes to Kalas after he chopped down Müller from behind.
30' -- Controlled stuff from the world champions at the minute, patiently waiting for the right time to strike. All the men in red are in their own half.
25' -- Germany's formation is pretty tricky to pin down tonight. Müller, and to a lesser extent Stindl, are roaming while Ginter and Kimmich are almost narrow fullbacks. Max Riegel has had a crack at the positioning below but it's certainly fluid.
20' -- Lovely stuff from Germany. Brandt, Müller and Kroos all involved in a sweeping move that presented Stindl with a chance. His effort was blocked and the rebound blazed over. The visitors have wrestled back control after a brief Czech surge,
15' -- The Czechs are suddenly in this. First there's a strong run and shot from the left hand channel that's well saved by ter-Stegen before Hummels is forced to head over his own bar under pressure. But the corner comes to nothing.
11' -- Bit of a scare for Germany as Kopic finds himself in the box. He cuts back on to his left foot but Stindl manages to fling a leg out to deflect it over. That feels like the first time the hosts have been in the German half.
4' -- GOAL! Werner puts Germany ahead. Cool finish from the Leipzig man. The move started with a Hummels interception, which found its way to Özil. He stroked it to Werner in way too much space in the box and he did the rest. That's his 4th in 7 games for Germany.
3' -- Julian Brandt seems to be playing right wing back, with Hector on the left. I can't think of a time the Leverkusen man has played there before. But he probably won't have to do too much defending tonight.
1' -- And we're off!
The players are lined up belting out the anthems which means we're almost ready to go. Thomas Müller leading Germany tonight in the absence of Manuel Neuer.
Now for the hosts, who have some Bundesliga experience in the shape of Hertha Berlin's Vladimir Darida and Werder Bremen's Theodor Gebre Selassie. The latter is the only player in his thirties in the Czech squad.
The German team is in. Lars Stindl's reward for the winner in the Confederations Cup final is a starting berth alongside Toni Kroos while Julian Brandt and Timo Werner offer some youthful zest at the top end of the pitch. Marc-Andre ter-Stegen wins the race to be Manuel Neuer's understudy.
Mesut Özil, who has been linked with Barcelona today, starts, as does Thomas Müller who will move past Oliver Bierhoff in the all-time goalscoring charts for Germany if he notches tonight.
Good evening! Just when we'd got used to the return of the Bundesliga, it's time for some international football.
When Group C was drawn, the Czechs looked the biggest threat to the world champions but it hasn't exactly turned out like that. Karel Jarolim's side have won just 2 of their 6 games in qualifying and were swatted aside 3-0 by the Germans in the reverse fixture.
Germany are unbeaten in their last 15 matches but Joachim Löw is wary of the Czechs: "They have their backs to the wall and need a win against us, and against Northern Ireland. Otherwise their World Cup dream is over” he said before the game.