WORLD CUP QUALIFIER: Northern Ireland fans can lift their team with a ditty says Germany’s Mats Hummels

Germany's Mats Hummels during Mondays training session at the HDI Arena, Hanover
Germany's Mats Hummels during Mondays training session at the HDI Arena, Hanover

Germany may not be scouting out World Cup training bases for Russia just yet, but Joachim Low is already confident they will be there to defend their trophy in two years’ time.

The world champions have made the perfect start to their qualifying campaign, defeating both Norway and the Czech Republic 3-0, and Northern Ireland are their next opponents in Hanover as Die Mannschaft look to continue their impressive record in the preliminaries.

They have lost just two of their last 86 World Cup qualifiers and Low is already being asked by the local media about whether he is researching Russia in advance of their expected progress, even if they still have eight fixtures to negotiate.

“In a nutshell, no, we’re not looking for accommodation already for the 2018 World Cup but with six points and Azerbaijan and San Marino to come, we’re self-confident enough to be fairly certain that yes, we’ll be there in two years’ time,” Low stated.

“I would like to finish this qualifying competition with full concentration. We want to win games, be consistent and develop further ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which we didn’t do before the 2014 World Cup.

“The Confederations Cup will be around next year, I will fly over to Russia and maybe do some initial checks but that’s about it in terms of the World Cup.”

A win in Hanover, where Germany are playing for the first time since last year’s friendly with Holland was cancelled due to security concerns, would give Low a 94th win in charge of the national team, a landmark that would see him equal Sepp Herberger’s all-time haul.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill had suggested that the hosts’ performances recently were indicative of a team intent on making up for their summer in France when they exited Euro 2016 at the semi-final stage.

It was a notion that defender Mats Hummels agreed with and he warned Northern Ireland not to expect the type of below-par performances the Germans produced in the run-up to the Euros, when Scotland twice ran Low’s men close and the Republic of Ireland claimed four points against them.

“It’s not just a reaction to the Euros but also the pre-Euro qualifiers where we didn’t really play that well,” the Bayern Munich player added.

“I don’t think we can ever aspire to be the world’s best team but one of the best teams. We definitely decided to give everything we have got as far as these qualifiers are concerned and avoid a situation like after the 2014 World Cup where we needed an awfully long time to get our act together, especially when three players retired. I think we’re on a good track.”

The affable Hummels was in a jovial mood ahead of the contest, pointing out that the travelling Green and White Army might be able to lift their team with a ditty that the Bayern defender fell in love with at the Euros.

“In terms of the Northern Ireland fans, the fans have one huge advantage over our supporters in that we do not have a ‘Will Grigg’s on Fire’ type of song,” he noted.