Germans World Cup-bound, but cautious
Die Mannschaft are first European team to qualify for Qatar 2022
Germany are on the right track ahead of next year's World Cup in Qatar after becoming the first European nation to qualify yesterday morning (Singapore time).
But their players know there is still considerable work to be done to reach world-class levels.
The four-time world champions crushed North Macedonia 4-0 to secure top spot in Group J with two games left, as they look to make amends for their shock 2018 World Cup first-round exit and their round-of-16 elimination at this year's Euro 2020.
"We should keep our sights low at the moment," midfielder Leon Goretzka said. "There were a lot of things also in today's game that we need to be better (at).
"We have the quality but we also have to grow together as a team... We are on the right track but still have work to do."
Germany coach Hansi Flick agreed that his side still had "a long way to go", but insisted they could compete with the best in the world.
"Our players have the quality to rival France, Italy and Belgium. I am very optimistic," he said.
Germany have won all five matches under Flick, who replaced Joachim Loew following their disappointing performances in their last two international tournaments.
Flick, who took over in August following his successful stint at Bayern Munich, seems to have found the right mix of youth and experience, with veteran Thomas Mueller indispensable once more after having been dropped by Loew for two years.
He has also helped revitalise Timo Werner, who bagged a brace in Skopje, with Kai Havertz and Jamal Musiala also finding the net. The misfiring Chelsea striker has scored in all but one of Flick's five games in charge.
"When a coach likes you and trusts you, then it helps every striker, especially me. I need that trust, and Flick gives that to me 100 per cent," he said.
Germany have scored 18 goals and conceded just once in their last five matches.
Although their opponents - Liechtenstein, Armenia, Romania, Iceland and North Macedonia - have been far from European heavyweights, they are raising their fans' expectations.
"The last few games have shown what kind of quality there is in our team," said Havertz.
A LOT OF CONFIDENCE
"Especially after the Euros - that was bitter for us - we wanted to qualify quickly.
"That (run of wins) gives us a lot of confidence but we have a long road ahead of us."
The Germans still look vulnerable at the back, especially against quick breaks, while lacking some precision up front.
"When you play for Germany, then it is about winning titles and reaching the highest peak," Havertz added.
"That is how we will arrive there at the World Cup next year but we have a lot of work before us."
Meanwhile, German Football Association vice-president Peter Peters said Die Mannschaft will not boycott Qatar 2022, saying: "A boycott, as some are demanding, will not benefit the country or its people.
"That has been confirmed by non-governmental organisations and independent experts from sport, politics and other areas of society - all of whom we have been in regular contact with for a long time regarding the situation in Qatar." - AFP, REUTERS