SERRAVALLE, San Marino: World champions Germany face minnows San Marino in a 2018 World Cup qualifier with a true David verses Goliath match-up on Friday.
Germany take on fellow European powerhouses Italy in Milan next Tuesday in a friendly, their last international of the year, but before the Azzurri, the Germans look destined to clinch three more qualifying points against tiny San Marino.
The landlocked mountainous microstate in North Italy has a population of just 33,400 and it’s football team is ranked 199 places below second-placed Germany by football’s governing body FIFA.
Despite a mounting injury list, anything less than a convincing win would be unacceptable to the four-time World Cup winners.
Germany top Group C with a perfect record of nine points from three wins, eight goals scored and zero conceded.
At the bottom of the table, San Marino’s part-timers have lost all three games, conceding nine goals and scoring just once, when Mattia Stefanelli netted in last month’s 4-1 defeat in Norway to be nicknamed ‘The Legend’.
“It was a great feeling to score a goal for my national team, I dreamed about doing it since I was a kid,” said the 23-year-old, who netted San Marino’s first goal in a World Cup qualifier since 2001.
The qualifier will be played at Serravalle’s Stadio Olimpico, which has a capacity of just 7,000, where Germany beat San Marino 13-0 in 2006 — an away record for die Mannschaft — and Stefanelli can expect few chances.
“Nothing is impossible,” he said.
“We will have to fight until the last minute to hope for an opportunity.
“It’s something unique and a great opportunity to face the world champions, we have to enjoy it.”
Previous results suggest a tough night for the hosts.
Germany romped to a 6-0 home win in 2007, when the teams last met, a year after that 13-0 rout when Lukas Podolski scored four goals.
German bookmakers Bwin are offering the lowest possible odds for a Germany win, as well as 4-1 for die Mannschaft scoring ten goals or more, with 51-1 for a San Marino win and 16-1 for a draw.
The Germans want to preserve their perfect record on the road to Russia already beaten Norway, the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland.
“The last qualifying match of the year is just as serious as the three previous games, so we do not want to be arrogant in San Marino,” said Loew before boarding Wednesday’s flight to Rimini.
“We’ll be highly concentrated and serious in our task.
“It’s our duty to get a clear win in San Marino and to extend our lead in the table.”
However, Germany have injury woes with captain Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos, Jerome Boateng and Mesut Ozil missing from their first-choice line-up.
Kroos has a fractured foot, Boateng has injured the groin and knee in his right leg and Neuer has a virus.
Ozil has been rested for the trip while forwards Julian Draxler and Julian Brandt also miss out with either injury or illness.
Loew has called up uncapped trio of Serge Gnabry (Werder Bremen), Yannick Gerhardt (VfL Wolfsburg) and Benjamin Henrichs (Bayer Leverkusen).
Despite missing some top names, the Germans expect a heavy win.
Miroslav Klose, the all-time top scorer at World Cup finals with 16 goals, will be on the Germany bench for the first time as he begins his coaching career after retiring from all football last week.