Euro 2012 Preview: Kazakhstan – Germany
Germany will hope to extend their perfect record in Euro 2012 qualifying as they head to Kazakhstan.
By Clark Whitney
Kazakhstan Aiming For Long-Term Results
The undisputed “minnows” of Group A, Kazakhstan’s Euro qualifying campaign is more of a long-term project than one aimed towards an appearance at the 2012 competition. While qualification for Euro 2012 is more of a pipe dream than a realistic goal, Kazakhstan will at least hope to gather some international recognition—and with it, more domestic focus on football—with good performances during the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Thus far, their project has not gone as well as could be hoped. Kazakhstan have lost all three of their matches by more than a goal, and have yet to score. The upcoming match with Germany will be a particularly special match for coach Bernd Storck, who is German by birth, and spent most of his life playing and coaching in the Bundesliga. The grand stage of facing one of the best teams in the world is always a motivator, and given the personal meaning of the match for Storck, Kazakhstan will have no shortage of drive to at least put up a good fight.
Currently listed at 126 in the FIFA World Rankings, Kazakhstan are well behind their 2001 historical peak of 98. A second breach of the top 100 threshold is not at all an impossibility, and Storck’s men will hope to take their lead from group rivals Azerbaijan, who have advanced from 140 to 102 in little over a year.
A draw may be a bit more than Kazakhstan can expect, but should they keep a clean sheet for even 45 minutes and/or score, it would be a major achievement.
Loew Wary Of Complacency
Even without the services of midfield fulcrum Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany inflicted a decisive, 3-0 defeat upon Turkey on Friday. The result left die Mannschaft three points clear of their closest rivals in Group A, and also reaffirmed their interchangeability, even in critical positions: Toni Kroos effectively deputised for Schweinsteiger, and the Germans rolled on to another convincing win.
Germany will hope to extend their perfect run to 12 points from four matches as they head to Kazakhstan for a match that many expect to be a cakewalk. However, coach Joachim Loew is wary of complacency.
“We are going to have to show a similar attitude to the one we showed in September when we built on our win against Belgium with another against Azerbaijan,” he told reporters. “We are not past the finish line yet.”
In September, Germany beat Belgium in Brussels before pummeling Azerbaijan by a 6-1 margin. This month’s internationals have a somewhat similar feel, with Germany taking on one major group contender and a side expected to finish near the bottom of the group. While Loew will be careful not to declare victory too early, the Kazakhstan match offers potential room for him to experiment with his squad. Should his side have a comfortable lead before half-time, the coach might take his opportunity to give run-outs to utility players such as Marko Marin, Mario Gomez and Cacau, each of whom offers a unique skill, but none of whom featured prominently at the World Cup. Of course, Loew is well known for his valuation of consistency, and cannot be expected to try anything outlandish.
No major injuries have been reported since Friday’s loss to Belgium, and Storck is expected to name a similar starting line-up. However, right back Alexander Kislitsyn is suspended after being sent off against Belgium.
Probable Starting XI: Sidelnikov – Kirov, Popov, Abdulin, Rotschkov – Nurgaliyev, Geterlev, Karpovich, Schmidtgal – Khizhnichenko – Zhumaskaliyev
In a pre-match press conference, Loew vowed to use the same starting lineup that featured in the Turkey match. Mesut Oezil has apparently recovered from an ankle injury, and should start. Jerome Boateng, however, has dropped out of the squad due to illness.
Probable Starting XI: Neuer – Lahm, Mertesacker, Badstuber, Westermann – Khedira, Kroos – Mueller, Oezil, Podolski – Klose