Germany are hoping to move on top of Group J in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying stage as they lock horns with Armenia on Sunday.
When Germany faced Liechtenstein in midweek, in what was new coach Hansi Flick’s first game in charge, it was expected to be a goal-fest. But the 2-0 victory in St. Gallen was a gentle reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done and the Germans won’t be treated with overnight success under the former Bayern Munich boss.
On Sunday, Die Mannschaft are hoping to improve on their performance as they welcome Armenia at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart. It is going to be the most vital game in the nation’s 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign as they are actually behind their weekend rivals in the Group J table.
Indeed, Germany are trailing Armenia by one point in the group but will have the opportunity to get back on top with a victory in Stuttgart. It won’t be an easy affair, though, with a resurgent Armenia coming on the back of wins over Liechtenstein, Iceland and Romania in their previous qualifying matches, before drawing 0-0 with North Macedonia.
They will be well aware of the fact that a draw could go a long way in helping them move one step closer towards a qualification in next year’s World Cup. However, with North Macedonia breathing down their necks with seven points, a loss could potentially put them at risk, with the same applying to Germany as well.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two nations ahead of their match-up at Stuttgart this weekend.
Tactics & Team News
Hansi Flick was pretty open about his team’s frailties in the game against Liechtenstein but has praised the players who performed well, including Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane. But it won’t be surprising to see him making a few changes in the attack, with the highly experienced Marco Reus hoping to replace Musiala in the final third.
It will force Kai Havertz to move out wide, with Reus starting in the number ten role. The Borussia Dortmund captain is a far more tactically astute playmaker than Havertz and has the ability to drop deep into midfield, thus enhancing Germany’s flexibility in possession. Leroy Sane and Havertz, meanwhile, will be hoping to cause chaos out wide, providing creative support for Timo Werner.
However, given their tendency to drift in, the onus of providing width to the German attack will be on the full-backs. Unfortunately, it appears Robin Gosens might be unavailable after picking up a knock.
It is an excellent chance for Flick to try his luck with the exciting David Raum at left-back, with Ridle Baku bombarding the right-hand side. There should be changes in midfield too, as Ilkay Gundogan should make way for Leon Goretzka, thus reuniting him with his Bayern Munich teammate Joshua Kimmich.
The two know each other well and are better suited to controlling the midfield for the hosts this weekend. At the same time, they must deliver, with Gundogan, Florian Neuhaus and Mahmoud Dahoud waiting in the wings.
Finally, in the defensive department, Thilo Kehrer appears likely to be replaced by Antonio Rudiger at the heart of the four-man backline. The Chelsea centre-back will be tasked with the responsibility of marshaling the German defence alongside Niklas Sule, as they look to protect the returning skipper Manuel Neuer in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Baku, Sule, Rudiger, Raum; Kimmich, Goretzka; Havertz, Reus, Sane; Werner
The Armenian side is led by former Borussia Dortmund superstar Henrikh Mkhitaryan and have an impressive attacking arsenal, boasting players like Sargis Adamyan and Tigran Barseghyan.
However, the key to their success has been the solid defensive unit that has conceded only two goals in four matches so far in the qualifying campaign. The tried and tested 4-4-2 method of head coach Joaquin Caparros has worked extremely well, with the two holding midfielders in Artak Grigoryan and Solomon Udo screening the four-man backline.
In defence, the full-backs are more than capable of marauding forward and offering support to the wide attackers in Barseghyan and Mkhitaryan, but given the quality of the opposition, both Hovhannes Hambardzumyan and Arman Hovhannisyan may just sit back and aid the two central defenders.
In fact, it won’t be surprising to see one of the two holding midfielders operating as auxiliary centre-backs to further solidify the central areas for Armenia and forming a situational 5-4-1, with the more versatile Adamyan moving into the second line of press and Aleksandr Karapetyan operating as a target man.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Yurchenko; Hambardzumyan, Haroyan, Calisir, Hovhannisyan; Barseghyan, Udo, Grigoryan, Mkhitaryan; Karapetyan, Adamyan
- By starting in that game on Thursday, Jamal Musiala became the first 18-year-old to start for Germany in a competitive international fixture since Uwe Seeler in 1957.
- Florian Wirtz joined Jamal Musiala in making his senior debut for Germany aged 18.
- Germany last faced Armenia in a friendly just before their triumphant 2014 FIFA World Cup, winning 6-1 on the night. In two competitive meetings, Germany have come out 4-0 and 5-1 winners – both games taking place in 1997.
Player to Watch
Over the week, one of the most talked-about subjects in German football was the team’s struggle in finding a proper goalscorer. Naturally, the debate has put Timo Werner under the microscope, with the Chelsea forward often being criticised for his lack of finishing prowess and occasional liability in front of goal.
Werner, though, performed really well in the game against Liechtenstein, scoring a beautiful goal by linking up with his Chelsea teammate Havertz. But he is set to face a tougher challenge this weekend, as Armenia hope to keep their qualification hopes alive by snatching a point against Germany.
So in many ways, this will be an ideal opportunity for the former RB Leipzig forward to make an impression under new coach Flick, especially at a time when Germany have no realistic option in the number nine role.
Germany 2-1 Armenia
As iterated earlier, Armenia will be well aware of the fact that a draw could be very beneficial for them at this stage, so this promises to be a very cagey encounter with the visitors embracing a more cautious and defensive approach. Germany, in response, are likely to go all guns blazing, almost in keeping with Hansi Flick’s footballing philosophy.
Die Mannschaft are the undisputed favourites to secure all three points thanks to the overall quality of the squad and the newfound belief under the new head coach, but the game could certainly go down until the very end, with the outcome likely to be decided by the barest of margins.