BERLIN- Germany host the Czech Republic on Saturday in the first of back-to-back World Cup 2018 qualifiers targeting two home wins despite missing main striker Mario Gomez.
The Germans face the Czechs at Hamburg’s sold-out Volksparkstadion Stadium, then face Northern Ireland four days later in Hanover looking to score, even with Wolfsburg’s Gomez out with a glutes injury.
“This isn’t just about picking up three points,” team manager Oliver Bierhoff told magazine Kicker ahead of the Hamburg game.
“We want to send out a clear message, in the direction of the 2018 World Cup.”
The main concern in the German camp is efficiency — finishing chances and converting pressure into goals — an old problem which re-emerged at the European championships when Germany lost to France in the semi-finals.
“We weren’t efficient enough,” said Bierhoff, reflecting on their Euro 2016 campaign.
“The unbelievable potential which we have has to be used better and we must have more purpose in the final third of the pitch.”
Germany kicked off their Group C campaign with a 3-0 win over Norway in Oslo last month when Thomas Mueller netted twice.
With Gomez missing, the onus again falls on Bayern Munich’s Mueller (two goals in nine club games) and Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Goetze (one goal in five games) to hit the back of the net for their country.
The Czech Republic won the last meeting, in October 2007, when they stunned the Germans in Munich with a 3-0 win in a Euro 2008 qualifier.
Germany’s head coach Joachim Loew is the only survivor in either squad from the defeat nine years ago.
The Czechs were held to a goalless draw by Northern Ireland in Prague at the start of September.
Germany captain Manuel Neuer says both qualifiers will test die Mannschaft’s attack, especially with Gomez injured.
“It’s a shame that Mario is out, he’s a classic striker, but we have others who can step in and who are very flexible,” said Neuer in Thursday’s press conference in Duesseldorf.
“We know how hard it will be to get goals against these teams, who are two of the strongest in the group.
“We want to be first in the group and we’re hoping for a good atmosphere on Saturday to help us get a good result.”