Germany extended their lead at the top of World Cup Qualifying Group C with a routine 4-1 win against Kazakhstan in Nuremberg on Tuesday evening.
Joachim Loew made three enforced changes to the side that coasted to a 3-0 away win on Friday in Astana. Borussia Dortmund's Ilkay Guendogan replaced the suspended Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield. Jerome Boateng filled in for injured Schalke defender Benedikt Hoewedes, forming a 'Bayern block' at the back with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and captain Philipp Lahm, alongside Arsenal's Per Mertesacker. Marco Reus returned to the starting line-up after sitting out the trip to Central Asia through suspension, replacing 19-year-old Julian Draxler, who suffered a nasty concussion on Friday.
During the first half, the minnows of Kazakhstan (FIFA ranking 139) simply had no answer to the Germans' high-tempo 'Spanish system', which was a delight to watch. Guendogan, a former Nuremberg player, was influential throughout and the 23-year-old almost broke the deadlock on 21 minutes with a cracking first-time volley which thundered against a post. Moments later, Mario Goetze, that famous 'False 9' in Löw's much-discussed system, was also denied by the woodwork, before Reus made it third time lucky opening the scoring with a right-footed shot from the edge of the box after 23 minutes.
Four minutes later, Lahm turned on the turbo, leaving Kazakh defenders trailing in his wake, before pulling the ball back from the right byline for Goetze to easily slot home. Guendogan crowned an outstanding first half display, with his first ever international goal just after the half hour mark. Just as on Friday, you would have thought Germany could have gone on to press for a double-figures win. However, the second-half took an immediate surprise twist. German goalkeeper Neuer, a virtual spectator during the opening period, was punished for a touch of over-confidence just after the interval. Neuer took a heavy first touch from a Mertesacker back pass and instead of dispatching into Row Z, the Bayern keeper tried to dribble his way out of trouble. Greuther Fürth's Heinrich Schmidtgal was in the right spot to punish Neuer's aberration, slotting home for Kazakhstan's first ever goal against Germany in four matches.
Indeed, Neuer will have less than pleasant recent memories of Franconia. He also dropped a clanger in the Bundesliga for Bayern in the very same stadium in November. Neuer was deceived by a long range shot from Marcus Feulner to gift 'Der Club' a draw in the local derby. Germany's Achilles heel remains their defence and even an outclassed Kazakhstan side sensed some frailty after Neuer's naivety. Korobkins struck a post on 79 minutes after Germany had repeatedly been denied by the Kazakh keeper Andrey Sidelnikov and the woodwork. Real Madrid's Sami Khedira struck the post on 72 minutes, and Lahm was foiled by another fine save by Sidelnikov. Moments later, Thomas Mueller had a shot palmed onto the crossbar.
The sell-out crowd in the 'Bratwurst capital of the world' was becoming increasingly frustrated as the home side somehow failed to add to the scoreline. The cheers had turned to jeers in some sections, especially for goalkeeper Neuer. Lahm cleared off the line from Schmidtgal before Reus applied the finishing touches to the scoreline in the final minute, after classy set-up play from Guendogan.
All four goals were scored by employees of reigning Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund. Germany have a competitive break until September when they take on 2nd placed Austria in their next World Cup qualifier, but can perhaps look forward to a summer holiday in America in June.
Germany: Neuer - Lahm, Boateng, Mertesacker, Schmelzer - Guendogan, Khedira - Mueller, Oezil, Reus (90' Jansen) - Goetze
Kazakhstan: Sidelnikov - Gorman, Dmitrenko, Mukhtarov, Kirov - Nurdauletov (46' Dzholchiev) - Konysbaev (78' Shomko), Korobkin, Engel, Schmidtgal - Ostapenko (64' Kukeyev)
Goals: 1-0 Reus (23'), 2-0 Goetze (27'), 3-0 Guendogan (31'), 3-1 Schmidtgal (46'), 4-1 Reus (90')
Referee: Halis Oezkahya