STUTTGART, Germany (AP) Defending champion Germany bounced back from a disappointing display to close in on World Cup qualification with a gala 6-0 rout of Norway on Monday.
Timo Werner, who had been targeted by what Germany coach Joachim Loew called ”so-called fans” during Friday’s fortunate 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in Prague, had his name chanted in appreciation by the fans in Stuttgart, where he made his breakthrough before joining Leipzig.
”That was something special at home today,” Werner said. ”It’s class how the fans supported me. It makes me twice as happy to play football. It means so much to me.”
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Werner repaid the supporters with two goals, both set up brilliantly by Thomas Mueller, while Mesut Ozil scored one and set up another as the Germans maintained their 100 percent record with their eighth win from eight games in Europe’s Group C.
”It shows how beautiful football can be. It was a great crowd and it was fun in front of a sold-out stadium,” Loew said of the carnival atmosphere. ”We played our part with good combinations and brilliant goals.”
Loew had been scathing in his criticism of some fans who chanted Nazi slogans at the game in Prague.
”We don’t want these slobs. We’re not their national team. They are not our fans,” said Loew, who was visibly angry.
With two games remaining, Northern Ireland is assured of finishing at least second in the group after a 2-0 win over the Czechs in Belfast. Germany has 24 points and Northern Ireland 19, nine ahead of Azerbaijan, which beat San Marino 5-1.
Group winners qualify automatically for the tournament in Russia, while the top eight runners-up from nine groups go on to playoffs to decide the other four places allocated to Europe.
Ozil got the defending champions off to a flying start when he struck after Jonas Hector cut the ball back.
Ozil then set up Julian Draxler, who turned inside a defender brilliantly before tucking the ball inside the far corner.
Norway barely had time to recover before Mueller set up Werner with his heel for Germany’s third with just 21 minutes played.
Werner grabbed with his second goal five minutes before the break, a brilliant header off a ball whipped in at pace from Mueller.
Leon Goretzka came on for Mueller at the break and he needed only five minutes to make it 5-0 with a header to Draxler’s cross.
There were further cheers among giddy home supporters when Sami Khedira came on for the final 30 minutes. The midfielder, who also made his breakthrough at Stuttgart, bought 1,200 tickets for the game so socially disadvantaged children and children fighting cancer in the region could attend.
Mario Gomez, another former Stuttgart player, completed the rout with a little over ten minutes remaining.
IRISH EYES SMILING
First-half goals from Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt were enough for Northern Ireland to guarantee at least second place in Group C with its first win over the Czechs at the sixth attempt.
Northern Ireland next hosts Germany on Oct. 5, but Loew’s side – which is five points clear – would need to lose both of its remaining games to miss out on automatic qualification.
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