FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Germany can secure World Cup qualification with a win against Ireland in Cologne on Friday. Even a draw would probably suffice for Germany to finish top of Group C because of its vastly superior goal difference over second-place Sweden.
Sweden will make sure of finishing at least in second place by beating Austria at home on Friday. Germany plays Sweden in Stockholm four days later in the final round of qualifiers.
Friday's match between the Faeroe Islands and Kazakhstan has no bearing on World Cup qualifying.
Here are 5 things to know about Group C ahead of Friday's matches:
NO STRIKERS, "FALSE NINE?"
Germany's top strikers, Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez, are injured and coach Joachim Loew has refused to call up Stefan Kiessling. With Marco Reus also injured and Mario Goetze lacking match practice, Loew is likely to go with a "false nine" solution with either Thomas Mueller or Max Kruse nominally leading his attack. Both could be in the starting lineup as well, with Mueller likely to attack from the right wing. Loew said he would play Philipp Lahm as right back and not as in the defensive midfield position that he's been playing in Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola.
GERMANY'S STRENGTH AT HOME
Germany has lost only twice at home in 81 World Cup qualifying matches since 1934: in 1985 against Portugal (1-0) and in 2001 in Munich against England (5-1). It has won 62 and drawn 18. Germany is unbeaten in its last 30 qualifying matches for either the European Championship or World Cup. The last loss was In October 2007 against the Czech Republic in Euro 2008 qualifying. Cologne is considered a good venue for Germany — it had to win its last qualifying game there and it beat Wales 2-1 before going on to capture its last World Cup title in 1990.
LOEW: DON'T EXPECT A ROUT
The last time Germany played Ireland it won 6-1 in Dublin one year ago. But Loew says the Irish did not show their real face then. Loew says the Irish are "artists in defense, especially away," who are "very physical." According to Loew, it doesn't matter who is the coach or who plays, the Irish can "defend outstandingly, they use maximum body contact and high pace and seek the shortest way to get the ball forward." Ireland has an interim coach in Noel King after the firing of Giovanni Trapattoni and will want an honorable result in its 500th international. King is likely to use some players who fell out of favor under Trapattoni but center backs Richard Dunne and John O'Shea are suspended. King is likely to play the 4-5-1 formation.