BAKU - Germany coach Joachim Low can
start planning for Euro 2012 after his side, with Philipp Lahm
their oldest player at 27, won 3-1 in Azerbaijan on Tuesday for
their seventh win in as many qualifiers.
Low will have the luxury of almost a year to prepare for
the tournament in Poland and Ukraine after his team, facing
former coach Berti Vogts who is now with Azerbaijan, moved 10
points clear of Belgium at the top of Group A.
At the most they need three points from their final three
games but will also qualify if third-placed Turkey, the only
team who can catch them, fail to win all of their last four
Mesut Ozil and Mario Gomez, with his fourth goal in three
internationals, gave Germany a 2-0 half-time lead and 20-year-old
Andre Schuerrle was also on target in stoppage-time.
It was not all plain sailing, however, as the Azeris hit the
bar with the score goalless and brought the score back to 2-1
through Murad Huseynov in the 89th minute.
Low has made a point of putting his faith in youth and his
team on Tuesday had an average age of under 24.
"It was a comical feeling, to be the oldest player on the
pitch, but that shows how much quality we have in Germany," said
"The important thing was that we won today and finished the
season with seven wins. It was a perfect season."
Some of the changes were forced on Loew, following injuries
to Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Sami Khedira.
Vogts, attacked by three men at a press conference on Sunday
following Friday's 2-1 loss in Kazakhstan, could only wish he
had the same riches to pick from after his team lost for the
fifth time in seven group games.
"Here, they play on the street until they are 15 or 16, they
have to learn basic skills during our training sessions," he
"Germany play in a different league to us and the fans don't
Vogts has now faced Germany four times as Azerbaijan coach,
losing every time including a 6-0 thumping earlier in the group
But the hosts were by no means pushovers and started
brightly, Vugar Nadyrov hitting the bar after a defensive
blunder by Mats Hummels.
Germany quickly recovered and took the initiative with
Benedikt Howedes floating over a cross for Ozil who held off
the defence to score from close range on the half hour.
The Real Madrid midfielder then set up Germany's second,
slicing open the Azeri defence for Gomez, who scored both goals
in the 2-1 win over Austria on Friday, to double the lead just
before the break.
The hosts refused to give up and Huseynov had already come
close before pulling one back from close range after slack
Azerbaijan sensed an equaliser but instead left themselves
wide open and Schuerrle made the game safe deep into stoppage-time.
Afterwards, Low seemed to be thinking more of the
end-of-season break than next year's tournament.
"It's 24 days since the end of the Bundesliga," said Joachim
Low. "The players are at the limit after a long season."
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