Leon Goretzka insists Germany's players are to blame for their shock defeat to North Macedonia and not under-fire head coach Joachim Low.

Germany lost 2-1 on Wednesday to the side ranked 52 places below them in the FIFA rankings – their first World Cup qualifying defeat since September 2011, a run spanning 35 games.

The loss was Die Mannschaft's second in four competitive matches, having also been thrashed 6-0 by Spain in November's Nations League clash.

Low recently announced he will quit his role with the national side after the rescheduled Euro 2020, though Germany's poor form – just five wins in their last 11 matches – has led to calls for a change before the tournament.

But Goretzka, who started all three of Germany's March qualifiers, has absolved the long-serving head coach of any blame for the latest calamitous loss, which leaves Germany third in Group J.

"We players are to blame for the defeat and no one else," he told ZDF. "We felt a touch of euphoria in the country after beating Iceland and Romania. 

"We have just got to tell ourselves now that it is behind us. You have to see that the scaffolding is becoming even more stable. In any case, that is primarily the job of the players."

Goretzka marked his return to club duty on Saturday with the winning goal in Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich's 1-0 win over closest challengers RB Leipzig.

He has been a key player once again for Bayern this term, featuring 28 times in all competitions, 21 of those appearances coming in the Bundesliga.

The midfielder's drilled finish against Leipzig from a Thomas Muller cutback was his fifth Bundesliga goal in 2020-21, adding to five assists – only Muller (25) and Robert Lewandowski (41) have been directly involved in more for Bayern in the league this season.

Goretzka also leads the way among Bayern midfielders in the Bundesliga for recoveries per 90 minutes (8.98) and is behind only Javi Martinez (2.57) for interceptions, with 2.27 a game on average.

Bayern are reportedly eager to agree fresh terms with Goretzka on a new contract, with his current deal set to expire at the end of next season, and the 26-year-old has indicated he is ready to commit to the club.

"I feel very comfortable here," he said. "Bayern has helped me a lot in the last few years to take the next step in my career. That is why the tendency is clearly towards Bayern."

Hansi Flick hailed his side's "mentality" after they moved seven points clear at the Bundesliga summit with a 1-0 win over RB Leipzig on Saturday. 

Leon Goretzka's third goal in his last four top-flight games proved the difference at the Red Bull Arena as Bayern took a significant step towards a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title. 

It marked the 62nd consecutive match in which Bayern have found the back of the net, setting a new record in Germany football since the Bundesliga was founded in 1963. 

Bayern did not have it all their own way against Leipzig, who had 14 shots to their nine, and Flick acknowledged his side had to use all of their mental strength to claim all three points against their second-placed hosts. 

"It was a top game and Leipzig showed why they are right up there," he told Sky. "We were on the trigger right from the start. 

"We didn't play forward as we would have wanted, but the goal was played out nicely. Leipzig caused us some problems, but the morale and mentality of my players is really excellent."

Goretzka's goal was created by Thomas Muller, who has now been involved in 11 goals in his last 10 Bundesliga games (four goals, seven assists). 

The 31-year-old has not played for Germany since November 2018 after being deemed surplus to requirements by Joachim Low.

However, there have been growing calls for him to be recalled for the rescheduled Euro 2020 at the end of the domestic season. 

Flick praised Muller for his "sensational" campaign, but said he did not want to influence Low, who he was assistant to between 2006 and 2014.

"I don't have to interfere," he added. "Thomas Muller is playing a sensational season. He can be important for other teams too, but in the end it has to be decided by Jogi. 

"He pushes his team-mates again and again, also in training. I am glad that we have such players in our ranks."

No side leading the Bundesliga by at least seven points after 27 games has failed to go on and win the title, but goalscorer Goretzka is refusing to get carried away.

"There are still 21 points to be awarded," he said. "It was a big step, but not the decisive one."

Bayern host Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday before welcoming Union Berlin to the Allianz Arena in the Bundesliga four days later.

An emotional Igor Angelovski suggested a sensational win over Germany was comparable to European Championship success for his North Macedonia side.

In the biggest shock of the World Cup qualifying campaign so far, North Macedonia claimed a remarkable 2-1 victory in Duisberg on Wednesday.

North Macedonia are set to make their major tournament debut as an independent nation at Euro 2020 and have now also improbably boosted their Qatar 2022 hopes, sitting above Germany in Group J, three points behind early leaders Armenia.

Angelovski's men had just 30.5 per cent of possession against the 2014 World Cup winners but were clinical when their chances came.

Veteran forward Goran Pandev and midfielder Eljif Elmas scored as North Macedonia registered six goal attempts, of which three were on target.

Germany had 11 efforts but only twice found their aim, as Timo Werner incredibly missed from point-blank range after Ilkay Gundogan's penalty had pulled the hosts back level.

For triumphant head coach Angelovski, the victory was particularly precious as he reflected on a difficult time in his personal life.

"What can I tell you? I can't, out of emotion, out of happiness," he said. "We made the North Macedonians proud and happy. This is like winning the European Championship.

"I came here with these guys because they promised to celebrate. My wife was in the hospital, she had COVID-19 symptoms, luckily she's better now.

"The kids were giving me support. Thank you all. What more can I say? Just to cry."

Unsurprisingly, 37-year-old record goalscorer Pandev - once a Champions League winner with Inter - was picked out for special praise.

He scored with his only shot from his sole touch inside the Germany box but crucially provided an outlet, his average position the furthest forward of any North Macedonia player.

"Pandev is an amazing man, the leader of this team," Angelovski said. "They fought like lions to write the history of their state; I'm proud of these guys."

Germany head coach Joachim Low was left "bitter" after the country's shock loss at home to North Macedonia in World Cup qualifying.

Low's Germany were sensationally humbled in Duisburg, where the four-time world champions suffered a 2-1 defeat on Wednesday.

Ilkay Gundogan had cancelled out Goran Pandev's opener before Eljif Elmas restored North Macedonia's lead with five minutes remaining as Germany lost a World Cup qualifier for the first time since September 2001 – a run of 35 matches.

The defeat left Germany third in Group J, level on points with North Macedonia and three points adrift of pacesetters Armenia, who have won all three matches so far.

"We are hugely disappointed after this bitter defeat tonight," Low, who will vacate his post following the rescheduled Euro 2020, told reporters. "We did not manage to find our way into the game like we did in the last two games.

"We had some good approaches but this was a real setback. As a first analysis, there are a couple of reasons for that. We were lacking pace and fast passing, we ran a lot with the ball and had many passing errors while moving forward. We did not find any appropriate means against the deep positioned North Macedonians.

"We also ran into many counterattacks due to passing errors and bad positioning. We did not have any access to our opponent when they were in the box during these counter attacks.

"We were equally staffed against the opponent during both goals. So positioning in the box was bad. But we also missed many chances in the first half and didn't punish them. We had a chance to go in front where it was two against one with Ilkay and Timo Werner.

"You had the feeling that this missed chance broke the team mentally. We tried it but we couldn't play as we usually managed to. We just weren't able to win this game today."

Joachim Low insisted it was not the right time to discuss possible recalls for Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels in the aftermath of Germany's shock 2-1 loss to North Macedonia.

Eljif Elmas scored late on in Duisburg - Ilkay Gundogan having earlier cancelled out Goran Pandev's opener from the penalty spot - to inflict a first World Cup qualifying defeat on Germany since September 2001 - a run spanning 35 matches.

The defeat leaves Die Mannschaft third in Group J, level on points with North Macedonia and three points behind pacesetters Armenia, who have won all three matches so far.

Speaking to RTL after the game, Bayern Munich honorary president Uli Hoeness suggested Low - who has announced he will end his tenure as head coach after Euro 2020 - should bring Muller and Hummels back into the national team.

The duo, as well as Bayern defender Jerome Boateng, have not played for their country since November 2018, but Low recently hinted each player remains in his plans for this year's tournament.

"Hummels is a player with strong aerial ability and someone who has a lot of experience," Hoeness said. "He can definitely give this team something.

"Muller also definitely belongs in the squad. He's always good for goals and can help any team in the world in certain situations."

But when asked again about those absent players after the North Macedonia game, Low told RTL: "This question cannot be answered now. The decision will be made in May. It is something to think about in the next few days and weeks."

The defeat for Germany was just their third ever in World Cup qualifying and leaves them with work to do when they resume their campaign in September.

There may well have been a different outcome on Wednesday had Timo Werner made more of a glorious chance that fell his way five minutes before Elmas' winner, the substitute forward dragging wide in a one-on-on opportunity.

"He has to score that, no question about it," Low said of Werner's late miss, coming from the Chelsea attacker's only touch of the ball in the opposition penalty area.

"He doesn't hit the ball properly, otherwise it's a goal. Timo blames himself the most. That was a bad moment in a period in which we were on top in the game."

Low had previously criticised his players for their profligacy in the 1-0 win over Romania on Sunday, which followed on from a 3-0 victory at home to Iceland.

Germany had 11 shots against North Macedonia but tested visiting goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski with just two of those, with Serge Gnabry - the match-winner against Romania last time out - wasting two chances of his own in the first half.

"There is no magic formula," Low said. "You can train all you want, but it is difference in a competitive match. We were too hesitant to finish.

"We weren't consistent. With the score at 1-1, Timo had that huge chance. We have to look back at the chances and talk about it."

Gundogan had drawn Germany on level terms but his side were caught out at the back for a second time for the winning goal.

"The fact is, that should not be happening," Gundogan said. "It felt like they were in front of our goal twice and scored twice - it was too easy for them.

"We had many chances and only scored one goal. We didn't defend well with either goal - twice they had a man in the middle completely free.

"I leave with a bad feeling. It hurts all the more that we won't play again for three months. We have to get in top form by the end of May and prepare for the Euros."

Germany dropped their first points in World Cup 2022 qualifying as they suffered a shock 2-1 loss at home to North Macedonia on Wednesday.

Joachim Low's side had defeated Iceland and Romania in their first two Group J games without conceding, but they were stunned in Duisburg by Eljif Elmas' late goal.

Veteran forward Goran Pandev had earlier given North Macedonia a half-time lead, which Ilkay Gundogan cancelled out with a contentious penalty for Ezgjan Alioski's challenge on Leroy Sane.

But Germany, ranked 52 places above their opponents in the FIFA rankings, saw substitute Timo Werner miss a glorious chance shortly before Elmas converted Arijan Ademi's cutback to snatch a famous win for the visitors.

Germany head coach Joachim Low has batted away talk of "world-class" Toni Kroos retiring from international football after this year's European Championship.

Real Madrid midfielder Kroos withdrew from the Germany squad at the start of last week, ahead of their opening World Cup qualifying fixtures.

Low's side claimed maximum points from their first two Group J games against Iceland and Romania and will expect to make it a hat-trick of triumphs when North Macedonia visit Duisburg on Wednesday.

Kroos is Die Mannschaft's most-capped active player – and joint 10th overall – having featured 101 times since his Germany debut in 2010.

His last appearance was in November's humiliating 6-0 Nations League defeat to Spain, although he did emerge with some credit.

Kroos enjoyed a pass completion rate of 97.7 per cent – the highest of any starting player across both sides – while no German starter lost possession fewer times than him (four).

Reports have circulated recently that 31-year-old Kroos is ready to call time on his international career after the rearranged Euro 2020 finals, but Low is not ready to write off the midfielder just yet.

"It's a media issue," Low told a media conference. "Toni is a world-class player with an enormous wealth of experience. We won't start to doubt his quality now."

Low also hailed the "step forward" made by Leroy Sane over the past week.

The Bayern Munich forward made three key passes against Romania – matched only by Serge Gnabry for Germany – and won 11 of his 12 duels.

Low was particularly impressed with the 25-year-old's defensive contributions.

"In the last two games Leroy had extremely good moments in defence," Low said. "He won four or five balls against Romania and some against Iceland.

"You haven't seen that before. He made a clear step forward."

Germany are red-hot favourites to progress to Qatar 2022 as Group J winners, but Low has warned his players against complacency when they host North Macedonia.

"I have the feeling that North Macedonia have rolled up their sleeves", said Low, who will step down from his position at the end of Euro 2020. "They are no worse than Romania. It will be a real show of strength.

"We're not taking anything for granted. North Macedonia are shrewd opponents. It will be another tricky task to come away with all three points."

Ilkay Gundogan would welcome the appointment of Pep Guardiola as Joachim Low's successor should the Manchester City manager become available.

Low announced earlier this month that he will leave his role with the national side after the delayed European Championship finals, which are scheduled to begin in June.

A number of high-profile names have been linked with the soon-to-be vacant position, with City boss Guardiola deemed to be an outside contender for the job.

Gundogan has spent the past five seasons playing under the Catalan at the Etihad Stadium and is enjoying the best campaign of his career in terms of goal involvements.

While the ex-Borussia Dortmund midfielder would like to work with Guardiola at international level, he accepts that is unlikely to be possible anytime soon.

"I would personally hire him instantly but I think that would be difficult as he is not currently available," he said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"I also don't know if I would like to be without him at City. Besides, I owe a lot to Joachim and I want him to leave on a high."

City remain on course for a quadruple this campaign in what will be all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero's last at the club.

The Argentina international confirmed on Monday he will be leaving at the end of the season and Gundogan is hopeful his team-mate can bow out on a high.

"He has done incredible things and contributed a lot to us being where we are now," he said. "We still have him for a few weeks and hopefully we can see him off with some success."

Aguero has already won the Premier League four times during his decade with City, the most memorable being the first of those in 2011-12.

He scored a dramatic winner against QPR on the final day to ensure City finished above Manchester United, a moment that still lives with Gundogan, who was with Dortmund at the time.

"I still get goosebumps when I see his legendary goal with original commentary," Gundogan added.

Gundogan's focus for now is on Wednesday's World Cup 2022 qualifier against North Macedonia as Germany aim to make it three wins from three in Group J.

The 30-year-old played the entirety of the victories over Iceland and Romania, but he is not taking his place in the side for granted ahead of Euro 2020.

"We have a number of top-class players here," he said. "It is very good for us to have that level of competition. Now it is down to the coach to distribute the right tasks.

"I want to play and I'm confident that I should be playing. I had a similar feeling in 2018 but only played one half against Sweden [at the World Cup].

"I've always felt I deserved to play, but you have to accept the decisions of others."

Low confirmed on Tuesday that Gundogan is in contention to skipper Germany at the MSV-Arena in Duisburg with regular captain Manuel Neuer being rested for the match.

Germany head coach Joachim Low bemoaned his side's wastefulness in front of goal during their slender 1-0 World Cup qualifying win against Romania on Sunday.

Serge Gnabry scored the only goal of the game in the 16th minute, with the Bayern Munich forward, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner going on to squander opportunities to extend Die Mannschaft's advantage.

That almost came back to haunt Germany in the closing stages as the hosts went close through George Puscas and Nicolae Stanciu. 

Germany – the 2014 world champions – ultimately held on, though, to follow up Thursday's opening Group J win over Iceland with another three points. 

Low was largely pleased with Germany's display, but acknowledged they should have added to Gnabry's early goal.

"Romania were definitely the better team than Iceland in terms of football," he said. "We worked very well against the ball today and won some battles. 

"We could have made the game easier for ourselves if we had made it 2-0. If there's something to complain about, it's the big opportunities.

"The goalkeeper saved very well several times, but we could have been ice cold and more concentrated in front of goal.

"When the opponent has nothing more to lose, they throw everything forward. We had several chances in which we could have finished more cleanly, but we have three points."

Germany made just one substitution before stoppage time – Werner replacing Kai Havertz in the 77th minute – and Low said he stuck with his starting XI for so long as the game was under control. 

"It's important to get used to it," he added. "But I didn't switch because the game was under control for a long time. 

"We were doing well, the midfield did a good job. The opponent had no chances for a long time, so it wasn't absolutely necessary for a long time."

Joshua Kimmich, who struck the crossbar in the first half with a deflected half-volley, agreed with Low's assessment that Germany made life unnecessarily difficult for themselves. 

The Bayern Munich midfielder said: "We could have made it easier for ourselves. We were lucky that Romania didn't equalise in the 90th minute; that would've been karma for us not scoring again.

"We have to score earlier then we will have a quieter evening. I think we largely controlled the game, but still we didn't manage to decide it earlier."

Germany will be looking to make it three wins from three Group J games when they host North Macedonia on Wednesday. 

Germany made it two wins from two in World Cup qualifying as Serge Gnabry's first-half goal sealed a 1-0 win over Romania on Sunday. 

Joachim Low's side opened their Group J campaign with a 3-0 win at home to Iceland on Thursday and they put in another dominant display at the National Arena to swat aside Mirel Radoi's men.  

Die Mannschaft had 18 shots to the hosts' nine, but they were limited to just a solitary goal, the impressive Gnabry securing maximum points with a close-range finish after 16 minutes. 

The result means Germany are top of Group J on six points, ahead of Armenia on goal difference, and three points clear of Romania and North Macedonia.

6 points from 6 #DieMannschaft #ROUGER pic.twitter.com/6bawjdLQGO

— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) March 28, 2021

Kai Havertz and Valentin Mihaila exchanged chances in the early stages, before Gnabry put Germany ahead.

Havertz surged into the penalty area and slid an inviting ball across goal, which the Bayern Munich forward easily slotted home from eight yards.

Joshua Kimmich then thundered against the crossbar from distance, with Florin Nita keeping out Gnabry's follow-up effort as Germany ultimately failed to add to their advantage.

Nita pawed away a fierce Leon Goretzka drive shortly after the restart, while the Romania goalkeeper got down well to deny Gnabry a superb solo goal before the hour mark. 

Leroy Sane and Timo Werner missed presentable opportunities inside the final half-hour, while George Puscas tested Manuel Neuer late on as Germany secured another three points on what is shaping up to be a smooth progression to Qatar 2022. 

 

Germany head coach Joachim Low admits he is not completely satisfied with his side with just three months to go until the delayed European Championship finals.

Die Mannschaft cruised to a 3-0 win over Iceland in their opening World Cup 2022 qualifier on Thursday through goals from Leon Goretzka, Kai Havertz and Ilkay Gundogan.

It was a welcome win for Low's men, coming on the back of a 6-0 hammering against Spain in their final match of a poor 2020 that saw them win only three of their eight games.

Germany had 81.5 per cent of the ball, attempted 1,053 passes and had 15 shots compared to Iceland's eight, but Low feels there is plenty of room for improvement.

"I wasn't exactly full of praise for the whole game," he said at a news conference on Saturday previewing the trip to Romania.

"We could have done better in the second half in particular. If we look to the Euros, we have to improve in a few areas. 

"It was a good start and we had a lot of well implemented play. But I'm not yet completely satisfied."

Without the influential Toni Kroos, who withdrew from the squad with a knock, Germany's midfield three of Gundogan, Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich impressed against Iceland.

Jamal Musiala made his debut as a second-half substitute in Duisburg, while Borussia Monchengladbach's highly-rated Florian Neuhaus was also introduced for his fourth cap.

But Low insists Kroos, who remains a regular for Real Madrid, is still integral to his plans.

"The midfield set the tone against Iceland, everyone in their own way. I'm happy about that. But Kroos is a player with immense value to us," said Low, who will end his 15-year tenure after Euro 2020.

"Our strength at major tournaments has been players coming off the bench. We have good players in midfield - any team who wants to achieve something needs that."

Germany's win over Iceland was their 17th in a row in World Cup qualifying, setting a new record and placing them top of Group J ahead of Sunday's trip to Romania.

Niklas Sule has been ruled out of both that match and Wednesday's visit of North Macedonia, while Robin Gosens is also out and Goretzka and Leroy Sane are carrying knocks.

Low does not intend to make many changes ​for the showdown at the National Arena as Germany seek back-to-back competitive wins for the first time since November 2019.

"I'm going to wait until tomorrow to see how things develop with Leon," Low said. "He is the first option in midfield and I hope he can play from the start.

"If he doesn't then it is possible to let Musiala play, or move Serge Gnabry deeper and bring in Timo Werner. Our usual defensive line will start."

Romania kicked off their qualifying campaign with a 3-2 home win against North Macedonia to make it four games without defeat, scoring 12 goals across those fixtures.

And Low expects to face an attack-minded side in Bucharest.

"They have great strengths on the attack and act much more aggressively than Iceland," he said. "We will face completely different challenges.

"I've seen Romania one time or another and we have a lot of information on them. 

"They have technically well-trained players who want the ball. They don't want to defend so much, but they want to play forward. I think Romania's central midfield is very good."

Barcelona legend Xavi has endorsed "luxury coach" Joachim Low for the Barcelona job once he steps down as Germany boss later this year.

Low announced earlier this month that he will leave his role with the national side after the delayed European Championship finals, which are scheduled to begin in June.

The 61-year-old has been in charge since 2006 and guided his country to World Cup success in 2014, as well as winning the Confederations Cup three years later.

He revealed earlier this week he has been learning Spanish, only strengthening rumours he is in contention to take over at either Real Madrid or Barcelona at some point.

And Xavi, who is also regularly linked to the head coach position at former club Barca, believes Low would be a good fit at Camp Nou.

"He is a luxury coach," Xavi told Suddeutsche Zeitung. "He wants sparkle and attacking football, and he is a world champion.

"Low has helped Germany develop a different understanding of football that reminds me a lot of what I know from Spain and Barcelona."

Asked more specifically why Low would suit Barcelona, Xavi said: "Because of his way of understanding the game. And because of his personality."

Low's contract with the German Football Association was originally due to run until the 2022 World Cup, but he requested to leave his position early on the back of a disappointing 2020.

Germany won only three of their eight matches last year, which culminated in a 6-0 Nations League loss to Spain - their heaviest defeat since losing to Austria in a friendly in 1931 by the same scoreline.

Xavi, who was overtaken by Lionel Messi last week in the list of all-time appearances for Barcelona, feels it is the natural time for Low to seek pastures new. 

"With such a period of time, wear and tear is inevitable," he added. "That might be the case now."

Germany's youthful side were in slick form against Iceland but outgoing head coach Joachim Low expects more from their next two World Cup qualifiers.

Iceland proved no match for Low's side on Thursday, with early goals from Leon Goretzka and Kai Havertz paving the way for a comfortable triumph before Ilkay Gundogan rounded out a 3-0 success.

Led by the imperious Joshua Kimmich, Germany dominated throughout.

They had 81.5 per cent possession, attempted 1,053 passes – at an accuracy of 92.3 per cent – and had 15 shots compared to Iceland's eight, with Manuel Neuer only called into action twice.

From his position at the base of midfield, versatile Bayern Munich star Kimmich controlled proceedings, tallying up 176 touches, 150 successful passes and a team-high three crosses, one of which should have resulted in a goal for Antonio Rudiger.

Only Gundogan (four) played more key passes than Kimmich, who was integral to Germany's first two goals, playing sublime balls into Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane as the hosts took a 2-0 lead by the seventh minute – the first time they have led by two goals that early in a competitive fixture since May 1969.

It marked a 17th successive win for Germany in World Cup qualifiers, a new team record.

But Low was not entirely pleased with Germany's display, telling RTL: "In the second half, we played too many passes backwards and missed some moments to trigger momentum and pick up speed.

"I see opportunities for improvement in our game. What made us strong in the first half – a lot of movement without the ball, a lot of deep runs – that wasn't quite the case in the second half.

"We have to see that we keep up the pace and can last for over 90 minutes. That will be important at the Euros."

Despite Low's concerns, Germany did much of their passing in Iceland's half.

Indeed, only Havertz (31), Gnabry and Lukas Klostermann (both 28) among the hosts' outfield starters attempted fewer passes in Iceland's half than Aron Gunnarsson – who led the distribution metrics for the visitors – managed in all areas of the field (33, only 22 of which were successful).

Low, who is departing after the Euros, has received criticism in some quarters following a difficult 2020, and for his decision to ostracise 2014 World Cup winners Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.

The 61-year-old has hinted the door could be open for the trio to return at the rearranged tournament, though for now he is sticking with youth, handing Jamal Musiala – who would also have been eligible for England – his debut late on.

Aged 18 years and 27 days, the Bayern attacker is the youngest Germany player since Uwe Seeler in October 1954.

"For the most part, I'm satisfied," Low said.

"We started very energetically and dynamically, we wanted to set an example. The team has the right attitude right from the start."

Germany made a comfortable start to their World Cup qualifying campaign as early goals from Leon Goretzka and Kai Havertz paved the way for a 3-0 win over Iceland.

News of Joachim Low's upcoming departure after the Euros dominated the build-up to Germany's Group J opener, though a vibrant performance proved the quality the outgoing boss has at his disposal heading into his final tournament.

Goretzka and Havertz had Germany 2-0 up after just seven minutes – the quickest Die Mannschaft have been two goals ahead in a competitive match since May 1969, when Gerd Muller and Wolfang Overath struck against Cyprus.

In-form Ilkay Gundogan arrowed in his 13th goal of 2021 for club and country midway through the second half, wrapping up a convincing triumph.

A 6-0 defeat to Spain rounded off a frustrating 2020 for Germany, but they made a fantastic start to 2021. Iceland had only touched the ball twice by the time Goretzka drilled home the opener from the centre of the area – Serge Gnabry having cushioned Joshua Kimmich's lofted pass into the midfielder's path.

Kimmich was the architect of Germany's second goal five minutes later with a wonderful throughball to release Leroy Sane, who squared for Havertz to finish coolly.

Germany's lead seemed set to be halved when Runar Mar Sigurjonsson's shot took a wicked deflection off Antonio Rudiger but the ball dropped inches wide.

Kimmich should have had an assist to his name prior to half-time, only for Rudiger to head wide from the midfielder's inch-perfect cross.

Aron Gunnarsson could have done better with a free header shortly after the interval, and any lingering Iceland hopes were swiftly dashed when Gundogan found the bottom-left corner.

Havertz had a goal disallowed for offside and Gnabry hit the post after latching onto another sublime Kimmich pass, but there was no further punishment for new Iceland coach Arnar Vidarsson.

A Germany player has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of their World Cup qualifying clash with Iceland on Thursday. 

The individual - whose identity has not been revealed - did not have any symptoms and was immediately sent into isolation, the German Football Association (DFB) confirmed. 

Germany's bid to reach the 2022 World Cup kicks off against Iceland in Duisburg, followed by clashes with Romania and North Macedonia on Sunday and Wednesday respectively.  

A statement from the DFB read: "The strict hygiene concept of the DFB is aimed at avoiding category 1 contacts. The measures that are being implemented include the permanent wearing of FFP2 masks, except when eating at the table.  

"[Also] Staying in closed rooms in fixed, narrow time windows, keeping a distance in all functional rooms in the hotel, using two team buses and several vans for trips to the training ground, as well as close-knit testing.

"Since the meeting of the national team on Monday, two PCR and one antigen rapid tests have taken place in the team hotel." 

National team director Oliver Bierhoff added: "Of course, this news is bitter so shortly before the game – for the coach and the entire team. 

"But we are confident that this will remain the case, as we have taken all hygiene measures so far and have been very disciplined. Of course, we will implement all the requirements of the authorities."

 

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