Under-fire Germany want to finish their qualifying campaign with a win over Georgia on Sunday to secure qualification to Euro 2016 and bounce back from their shock defeat to Ireland.
The world champions remain top of Group D despite suffering a 1-0 defeat to the Irish on Dublin, which kept Martin O’Neill’s side in contention to qualify directly.
Germany need only a draw at home to minnows Georgia to ensure their ticket to France next year and even if they lost, only a draw between Poland and Ireland in Warsaw would condemn them to a play-off spot.
A draw in Dublin would have been enough for Joachim Loew’s side but substitute Shane Long made sure Irish eyes were smiling with the winning second-half goal after outpacing Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng before beating Manuel Neuer in the Germany goal on Thursday.
The top two sides go through from the group, but Germany, on 19 points are just one ahead of Poland and Ireland.
Finishing third in the group could put Germany in the unthinkable position of needing to win a two-legged play-off to reach Euro 2016.
But Loew is more concerned with simply bouncing back from a rare and surprising defeat by returning to winning ways.
“The situation is clear, but we have things in our own hands and we want to win against Georgia to qualify directly,” said Loew.
– Goetze out -Loew will also have to do without a couple of key components from his World Cup winning team as forward Mario Goetze is definitely out with a hamstring tear while captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is doubtful after injuring a hamstring in the warm-up in Dublin.
“Mario will not be there for sure. We’ll have to wait to see how Schweinsteiger is, but his chances are very small,” said Loew.
Georgia are second from bottom with just three wins in their nine matches and Germany have won all four meetings between the teams.
Germany have not lost in 21 home qualifiers since a 3-0 defeat by the Czech Republic in October 2007, including 17 wins and four draws.
In contrast, Georgia have won just one of their last 23 competitive away matches and their single victory was a 3-0 win against minnows Gibraltar.
Georgia, coached by former Eintracht Frankfurt player Kakhaber Tskhadadze, will be without injured playmaker Giorgi Chanturia, who plays for Duisburg in Germany’s second division, but the visitors will be looking to follow Ireland’s example.
– Dream fixture -“There is no bigger stage for our boys than a game against the world champions,” said former Hertha Berlin defender Levan Kobiashvili, who is now president of the Georgian FA.
“This is a dream.”
But a third defeat in their Euro qualifying campaign would be a nightmare for Germany, having already lost to Poland and now the Irish, on their rocky road to the European championships in France.
Loew described the Dublin defeat as “unexpected” and “unnecessary”.
“We were superior, we were dominant, but we didn’t do anything with it. It was one of the most unnecessary defeats we have suffered in recent years,” he said.
This is not the first time Germany have failed to hit the target in front of goal since winning the World Cup and Loew says they will fix that against Georgia.
“The final passes were not arriving in the penalty area against Ireland and that is something which we must improve,” said Loew.
“We lacked some decent finishing, then we made one mistake, opened the door for them and Ireland took their chance.
“But in terms of fighting spirit, I can’t fault my team.”