Germany will travel to the Philip II Arena to take on tricky North Macedonia in a FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifier on Monday as Hansi Flick’s men aim to seal their World Cup spot.

As we’re heading towards the closure of the second international break, Germany will make a trip to Skopje to play North Macedonia and will look to stretch their lead at the top of Group J even further. The visitors have a strong record in the World Cup Qualifiers and are at the top of the group while the hosts sit second following their win in the last game.

Like their next opponents, North Macedonia have only lost once in their qualification campaign thus far. That defeat occurred in the opening group match against Romania, where the Lions were defeated in a five-goal battle, but the bitter defeat appears to have had little effect on their morale, as the squad has delivered some great performances since then.

One of those iconic moments came in the reverse fixture versus Germany. The retired Goran Pandev put the minnows ahead shortly before halftime. After an equalizer from the spot-kick from Ilkay Gundogan, Eljif Elmas scored in the 85th minute to secure a 2-1 surprise victory. They are coming on the back of a comfortable 4-0 win over Liechtenstein.

Germany have all but clinched first place and direct qualification and may do so on Monday, and they will also be intent on avenging their shocking defeat against North Macedonia earlier in the year. Hansi Flick, the new manager of the German national team, has had a flawless start to his tenure, with four victories in his first four games with only one goal surrendered.

However, that goal came in the most recent game, when Die Mannschaft came back from a goal down to win 2-1 against Romania. Ahead of their latest encounter with North Macedonia, The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

North Macedonia

Despite the retirement of their record-cap holder and goalscorer Goran Pandev following UEFA Euro 2020, North Macedonia have not struggled for goals and remained Germany’s closest contenders in the group after defeating close-rivals Liechtenstein 4-0 on Friday.

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North Macedonia’s head coach Blagoja Milevski has near to full strength squad with Visar Musliu and Tihomir Kostadinov both serving their bans in the previous game, although the former has picked up a knock and is doubtful for the clash.

Milevski played an attacking 4-1-4-1 formation against a much-lower ranked Liechtenstein. He will likely revert to a compact counter-attacking 4-4-2 for the Germany game with several personnel changes due to the short span between the Liechtenstein and Germany qualifiers.

Stole Dimitrievski will be the preferred choice in goal with Velkovski and Ristevski guarding him, taking slots in central defence. Stefan Ristovski will provide the extra defensive cover from the right-back position, while former Leeds United left-back Ezgjan Alioski is expected to make a few surprise surges forwards while keeping things tight at the back.

The midfield quartet will consist of several skilled players; Napoli man Eljif Elmas will be the creative hub while the onus of stopping Germany’s midfield runners is likely to fall upon the shoulders of Enis Bardhi and Stefan Spirovski. Schalke winger Darko Churlinov will provide the spark to the right-hand side. Milan Ristovski and Aleksandar Trajkovski will lead the line and will hope to cause trouble to the German backline.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2)Dimitrievski; S. Ristovski, K. Ristevski, Velkovski, Alioski; Churlinov, Spirovski, Elmas, Bardhi; M. Ristovski, Trajkovski

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Germany

 

Since his appointment as Germany boss, Hansi Flick has shaken up several things and made key positional changes. He is expected to deploy the same 4-2-3-1 setup he fielded against Romania. Captain and first-choice keeper Manuel Neuer was pulled out of the match against Romania due to injury, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen filling in, but Flick has confirmed in his latest media briefing that Neuer is back fit and can start against North Macedonia.

Antonio Rudiger and Niklas Sule are regular fixtures in central defence. They will maintain a high line and are expected to push the play up the field, with Rudiger capable of surging forwards at times if needed. Regular first-choice left-back Robin Gosens is absent due to injury, so Thilo Kehrer of Paris Saint-Germain has been stepping in, with Jonas Hofmann excelling on the other side of the back four.

Flick has reverted Joshua Kimmich back into the Number Six defensive midfield role alongside Bayern Munich teammate Leon Goretzka. The Bayern duo will form the double midfield pivot and will showcase their playmaking abilities. Goretzka will be in more of a box-to-box role to break the opposition resilience.

There is room to make changes in the attack. Serge Gnabry will keep his place in the right-wing position. Leroy Sane is in a rich vein of form for Bayern and was very threatening against Romania, and he might just stay at left-wing. Germany’s generational talents Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz will be waiting on wings to come as substitutes.

Timo Werner just doesn’t give Germany the kind of focal point or outlet upfront and is weak in aerial duels and hold-up play. So, Flick may go with Kai Havertz, who is better at linking up and strong in the air with headers. Thomas Muller will return to the No. 10 role ahead of Borussia Dortmund star Marco Reus and will slot in just behind Havertz.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Hofmann, Sule, Rudiger, Kehrer; Kimmich, Goretzka; Gnabry, Muller, Sane; Havertz

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Key Stats

  • Technically speaking, North Macedonia have a 100 per cent success record in this fixture, winning the only one match played so far.
  • Germany haven’t lost any of their three away fixtures in the World Cup qualification campaign and have a perfect win record under the new head coach Hansi Flick (4).
  • The Lions possess a strong track record at home and have only lost once in the last seven games while playing as hosts. (W3 D3)
  • Gnabry has scored 20 goals in 30 appearances. Only three players in the whole Die Mannschaft history – Gerd Müller, Klaus Fischer and Fritz Walter – netted more in that time.

Player to Watch

Thomas Muller

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It’s admirable how Muller transformed his game and is now arguably the best-attacking midfielder in the world. His importance to the German national setup is a massive understatement. The Bayern maestro is literally a machine at chance creation and can also chip in with important goals if required, just like in the Romania game.

Widely known as the space interpreter, Muller is extremely intelligent at exploiting spaces between the lines and is very versatile. He is a unique footballer, and his work rate never lets his team down. It’s shameful that previous German boss Joaquin Low once disbanded him despite his enormous contributions to German football.

Prediction

North Macedonia 1-3 Germany

Although North Macedonia don’t have any chance in terms of quality disparity on paper between both sides, Germany have recently struggled against opponents that tend to sit in a low block. Romania put the German’s under pressure after taking the lead early. Even though they eventually won the game, their overall display was lacklustre.

North Macedonia usually play with a comprehensive low-block against superior sides and have enough skilled player’s to cause problems on the counter-attack, and they will take confidence from the last time they defeated Germany when Low was still in charge, but chances of any repeat with Flick at the helm are inconceivable. Hence, The Hard Tackle predicts a comfortable 3-1 win for Die Mannschaft.

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