WORLD CUP QUALIFIER: How does Joachim Low keep Germany flying high

Germany team during Monday's training session at the HDI Arena, Hanover
Germany team during Monday's training session at the HDI Arena, Hanover

World Cup holders Germany have made a perfect start to their 2018 qualifying campaign and will look to maintain that on Tuesday against Northern Ireland.

The two sides met at Euro 2016, with Die Mannschaft winning 1-0 in the summer, and they will be confident of triumphing again in Hanover.

Here we take a detailed look at Joachim Low’s side ahead of the Group C clash.

FORM

Germany have burst into World Cup qualifying with back-to-back 3-0 wins - in Oslo against Norway and in Hamburg against the Czech Republic - and head coach Low and team manager Oliver Bierhoff have already made plans to visit Russia next month to get to know the host country better. Having lost only two previous World Cup qualifiers out of 86, with 66 wins and 18 draws, it is hard to see their trip in November proving futile.

MANAGER

Low sits on the Germany bench for the 141st time on Tuesday night, and there has already been talk of him extending his contract through to Euro 2020. Under his tutelage, Germany have reached at least the semi-finals of all the major tournaments they have entered, with victory in the last World Cup his crowning moment. The 56-year-old is seeking a 94th win, which would make him the most successful Germany manager of all time. Sepp Herberger, who won 93 games at the helm, was in charge for 167 games and there is little to suggest Low will not break that record of longevity.

TACTICS

If you cannot beat them, join them. After being frustrated numerous times by Spain, Low decided to imitate their ‘false nine’ tactics to great effect, winning the last World Cup thanks to a goal from a player who defines that role better than many, Mario Gotze. Rarely - if ever - will Low field more than one forward in his side, although he has leaned back towards an out-and-out striker in recent games, with three attacking midfielders in support. He now seems to have settled on a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Julian Draxler in support of Gotze, in the injury-enforced absence of Mario Gomez.

PLAYERS

Low is blessed not only with quality in every position, but a wealth of it at that. Starting from the back, where he has one of the world’s most reliable shot-stoppers in Manuel Neuer, and moving through the defence, where Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng are rated among the best central defenders in the business, Low can pick from some of the best players in their role. Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira and Ilkay Gundogan leave him with an embarrassment of riches in front of the back four, with the aforementioned attacking midfielders vouching for the overall talent available. Joshua Kimmich has filled the void left by the retirement of Philipp Lahm to remove that headache while Jonas Hector provides balance on the other side.