The 2022 World Cup is now just 12 months away, with qualifying entering its closing stages following a series of crunch November clashes.

Difficulties still await Italy and Portugal – the past two European champions – in the play-offs, but most of the other big names are well on their way if they have not already confirmed their place in Qatar.

So, how are the expected contenders shaping up? Stats Perform investigates.

Argentina

Having finally ended his long wait for a senior international honour at this year's Copa America, Qatar looks like Lionel Messi's last realistic chance to guide Argentina to World Cup glory. They last triumphed in 1986, in the days of Diego Maradona.

But the brilliant Barcelona form that has been the bedrock of Messi's outstanding career is no more. Since clinching the Copa, the forward has left Camp Nou for Paris Saint-Germain and played just 595 minutes across eight games at club level, scoring three goals and assisting none. Heading into this weekend, he had yet to net in Ligue 1.

At odds with the rest of his career, Messi has briefly become one of those players who performs better for country than for club, scoring four goals in seven games for Argentina in the same period, even allowing for the minutes spent regaining fitness in November. But the national team must be concerned Messi's unconvincing displays and shaky recent fitness record hint at a decline that could continue for another year before he gets an opportunity to lead a global title charge.

Although Argentina undoubtedly have other highly talented players – Messi was one of four to make the Team of the Tournament as they become South American champions – it is tough to imagine a successful Albiceleste side without the great number 10 at the heart of it.

 

Belgium

Roberto Martinez's Belgium remain the world's top-ranked team, but it feels like their window for a first major title might now have passed.

Martinez took charge after Euro 2016, where a stacked squad lost to Wales in the last eight, yet he has found a glass ceiling, finishing third at the 2018 World Cup and fourth at the 2020-21 Nations League either side of another quarter-final exit at Euro 2020. Since a disappointing performance at the Nations League Finals, Martinez has been linked to a host of club roles – albeit he is expected to stay put until Qatar.

Although Belgium's 'Golden Generation' have maintained their position at the top of the game despite an ageing defence, there are worrying signs their key attacking players could also be on the wane.

Through a combination of injuries and poor form, Eden Hazard has not looked the same player since he left Chelsea for Real Madrid. Kevin De Bruyne, also beset by fitness issues and below-par outings of late, will hope not to follow the same path. Both he and Romelu Lukaku must still be at their peak to give the Red Devils a chance.

Brazil

Brazil were outclassed by Belgium in the quarter-finals in Russia but have lost just three matches since then. One of those was in this year's Copa final against Argentina, although the Selecao also won the competition in 2019.

Unlike previous Brazil teams, Tite's side are built on the strength of their defensive record. They have kept 28 clean sheets since the 2018 World Cup, conceding just 16 times in 42 games, with 11 shutouts in 2021 alone.

However, that solidity comes at a price. Brazil are scoring at a relatively unspectacular rate of 2.0 goals per game, including netting only two in their three Copa knockout games in July and just one across two November qualifiers.

Neymar will have a key role in producing those timely moments of magic and should not be short of motivation heading to Qatar, having suggested this will be his last World Cup. The forward has excelled on the world stage before without taking Brazil all the way.

England

As so often, England have qualified with relative ease, benefiting from a kind draw, but will not face a true test until the tournament comes around.

That means a wait to see if Gareth Southgate can make the necessary tweaks to turn the Three Lions from nearly men into champions, with the midfield a key area of focus having ceded 65.4 per cent of the possession to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, 53.2 per cent to the Netherlands in the 2018-19 Nations League semi-finals and 55.5 per cent to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semis. The continued development of Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham should encourage optimism.

But England also find themselves in a position, like Argentina, where the performances of their talismanic captain are suddenly a concern – at least at club level.

Harry Kane has so far this season used the international breaks as sweet relief, quickly closing on Wayne Rooney's record goals tally by scoring in 15 consecutive qualifiers up to September and notching seven in November alone, but there is a break now before March's fixtures and the forward simply must rediscover some sort of form for Tottenham and add to his single Premier League goal in order to return to the England fold in good nick.

 

France

Welcoming Karim Benzema back into a frightening front line, France appear to have an even more impressive line-up than at the previous World Cup, where they emerged as champions.

Benzema has already directly combined for five goals with Kylian Mbappe and one with Antoine Griezmann, who has in turn linked up once with Mbappe. The trio netted nine of France's 10 goals this month, while Mbappe had assists for each of Benzema's strikes at the Nations League Finals as both players scored in both matches and Les Bleus twice came from behind to take the title.

Yet those prior deficits and the six goals conceded at the Euros hinted at the weaknesses in this France side, as Didier Deschamps is still working on his new 3-4-1-2 formation.

The composition of the midfield in that team is crucial, and N'Golo Kante was missing against Belgium and Spain before Paul Pogba suffered an injury prior to the November fixtures. France have no shortage of quality but may not head to Qatar as the most settled unit.

Germany

It was clear Joachim Low's Germany tenure was reaching its natural conclusion before he announced his departure plans in March. That the team followed up a group-stage exit at the World Cup by stumbling through their pool at the Euros before exiting to England only further illustrated that this was the right decision.

But Germany know all about recovering quickly from such setbacks; they seemed to reach rock bottom at Euro 2000 and were in the World Cup final two years later.

Now Hansi Flick, having set Bayern Munich back on course, is excelling again with the national team, becoming the first Germany coach to win his first six matches in charge – a sequence that now stands at seven and counting. The team's last longer winning run ended at 12 games in 1980.

Germany were the most aggressive pressing side in Europe during qualifying, this despite naming their oldest XI in more than 21 years in a recent qualifier against Liechtenstein. Striking this same balance between energy and experience will be key in Qatar.

Spain

Spain have come a long way since the last World Cup, where they appeared to be in crisis from start to finish, eventually exiting to hosts Russia on penalties.

Luis Enrique's subsequent work across two spells has made them contenders again, reaching the last four at the Euros – only to again fall foul of a shoot-out – and briefly leading France in the Nations League final. The emergence of Ansu Fati, Pedri and Gavi over the course of these campaigns provides a major cause for long-term optimism, too.

However, injury issues have kept that trio from ever featuring together for their country; in fact, Fati, Pedri and Gavi are yet to play a single minute together for Barcelona.

They were three of 39 players to appear for Spain in qualifying, showing the depth of talent at Luis Enrique's disposal. Within that group, however, there is not a prolific goalscorer – a major concern with 12 months to go.

Germany head coach Hansi Flick was pleased with his team’s 4-1 win in Armenia as they brought a successful World Cup qualification campaign to an end on Sunday.

Goals from Kai Havertz, Jonas Hofmann and a brace from Ilkay Gundogan saw the Germans home in Yerevan. The victory means that Flick has won all of his first seven games in charge of Die Mannschaft, scoring 31 times and conceding just twice.

It is also their joint-longest winning run this century (also seven in 2017). The last time Germany had a longer winning run was across 1979 and 1980, when they managed 12 in a row.

They finish their World Cup qualifying campaign top of Group J having won nine of their ten games, a comfortable nine points ahead of North Macedonia in second.

"We won 4-1 and achieved our aim of ending the group on 27 points," Flick said after the game. "It wasn't all brilliant, but the way we try to play football is great. You can see that the team always wants to attack and create chances.

"We defend high up the pitch and then allow them a few opportunities on the break, though that's just normal. We know what we need to improve on; we've got time for that.

"I'm satisfied with the team. We've won seven games together now, so I can only congratulate them. It's great as the coach to see the team enjoying themselves so much."

Thomas Muller was also pleased with the win, emphasising the importance of getting off to a good start in a "new era" for the national side.

"I think that was a good performance from us overall," the Bayern Munich attacker said. "It wasn't a goal-fest like against Liechtenstein, but we got the job done well. The first goal was important for us and was really well-made. We were concentrated and committed. It's a good way to finish off the campaign.

"A new era began in September for the first time since 2006. You can see that we've played well over the last three months and we want to continue doing so. It doesn't matter who is on the pitch, everyone will give their all and do their job.

"We may not have played any big teams, but we have performed really well at times. We can go into next year with a positive mindset now. We're happy."

Ilkay Gundogan struck twice as Germany rounded off a dominant World Cup qualifying campaign with a 4-1 win in Armenia on Sunday. 

Kai Havertz and Jonas Hofmann were also on target for Die Mannschaft at the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium, with the hosts replying through a consolation penalty from Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Head coach Hansi Flick made six changes from the team that thrashed Liechtenstein 9-0 on Thursday, but Germany looked strong again, easing past the side bossed by Joaquin Caparros.

The win was a ninth from 10 qualifying matches for Germany and means they finish nine points clear of second-placed North Macedonia in Group J.

Germany took the lead after 15 minutes when Hofmann played a quick one-two with Thomas Muller before crossing from the right for Havertz to steer home.

The visitors had a penalty in first-half stoppage time when a VAR review led to the verdict that Florian Neuhaus had been fouled by Taron Voskanyan in the box, and Gundogan converted with ease.

The Manchester City midfielder had his second goal five minutes into the second half when his shot from the edge of the penalty area inexplicably slipped through the grasp of Stanislav Buchnev.

Armenia captain Mkhitaryan pulled a goal back from the spot after Neuhaus fouled David Terteryan in the box just before the hour, but a mistake from Mkhitaryan allowed Hofmann to intercept and race through to restore Germany's three-goal cushion in the 64th minute.

 

Hansi Flick believes everyone is clamouring to play for Germany after he continued his fine start to life as head coach with a crushing 9-0 win over 10-man Liechtenstein in World Cup qualifying on Thursday.

Germany were in cruise control following Jens Hofer's early red card, with Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane and Marco Reus adding to a Daniel Kaufmann own goal to put Die Mannschaft 4-0 up at half-time.

Sane added a fifth early in the second period, while a brace from Thomas Muller, a fine Ridle Baku strike and an own goal from Maximilian Goppel sealed the rout late on.

The result meant Flick became the first Germany head coach to win his first six matches in charge, taking the record outright from former boss Joachim Low.

And former Bayern Munich coach Flick said his job is made easier by the desire of Germany's stars to secure a spot in his first-choice XI.

"Of course I'm satisfied," he told RTL. "The atmosphere was just fantastic. That was the third home game we had like that. The team and the fans, that's a good combination.

"We are happy about the quality, everyone wants to join this team, that makes it easy for us.

"It is extremely important that everyone goes along with the way we want to play, and that's the impression we have."

Germany, whose progress to next year's World Cup in Qatar had already been secured before the game in Wolfsburg, wrap up their Group J campaign against Armenia on Sunday.

It has been a routine qualification for the 2014 winners, with eight victories from their nine games so far.

Muller, though, said it is important to not get carried away until they have tested themselves against tougher opposition.

"Of course, you always have to put into perspective the fact that we don't have any extremely difficult opponents in our group," he said. "But we always wanted the next and the next goal so it was a great evening."

Reus shared his team-mate's sentiments, adding: "It was just nice, but you can't say how close we are to the top of the world as the opponents weren't at the level we will be challenged at.

"These games are still good because you are able to practice important things. It was fun."

Hansi Flick became the first Germany head coach to win his first six matches in charge after his side crushed Liechtenstein 9-0 in World Cup qualifying Group J on Thursday. 

The former Bayern Munich boss kicked off his reign with a 2-0 win over these opponents in September and always looked like taking the outright record from Joachim Low following Ilkay Gundogan's early penalty, given for a foul which saw a red card issued to Jens Hofer.

Die Mannschaft, whose progress to next year's World Cup in Qatar had already been secured before the game in Wolfsburg, took full advantage of their numerical superiority, racing into a 4-0 half-time lead thanks to a Daniel Kaufmann own goal and strikes from Leroy Sane and Marco Reus. 

Sane added a fifth early in the second period, while a brace from Thomas Muller, a fine Ridle Baku strike and an own goal from Maximilian Goppel sealed a resounding win late on.

Gundogan stroked home from the penalty spot in the 11th minute after Hofer had kicked Leon Goretzka in the throat – an eye-watering challenge that resulted in the defender's dismissal.

Kaufmann prodded into his own net from Christian Gunter's low cross nine minutes later to double Germany's advantage, before Sane coolly slid past Benjamin Buchel after being played in by Goretzka.

Reus then scored a third goal in the space of just three minutes and 31 seconds, the Borussia Dortmund man slotting in after Buchel had made a mess of a deep cross.

Germany picked up where they left off at the start of the second period, Sane claiming his second with a scuffed shot from 10 yards in the 49th minute.

Muller scored with two close-range finishes either side of a superb Baku effort, while the unfortunate Goppel headed into his own net to wrap up the scoring in the 89th minute.

 

Hansi Flick would like all of Germany's players to get vaccinated against coronavirus, but does not judge those who wish not to be.

On Tuesday, Germany confirmed that Bayern Munich defender Niklas Sule – who is fully vaccinated – had tested positive for COVID-19. He was immediately placed into quarantine.

Squads no longer have to do mandatory PCR testing, but Germany elected to do so. With Sule testing positive, Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala, Karim Adeyemi and Joshua Kimmich were classed as close contacts and had to leave the training camp to isolate.

Another four players, who have not been named, were also said to have contact with Sule, but were allowed to remain at the camp. They will train alone and be monitored closely over the coming days.

Apart from Sule, no other positive cases were recorded.

While the vaccination status of Adeyemi, Musiala and Gnabry is not known, Bayern star Kimmich has publicly revealed he wishes to wait for more research to be completed on the vaccines before taking up the offer.

Though he would have preferred to avoid the subject and instead focus on Germany's World Cup qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Armenia, Flick reiterated his opinion that everybody should get vaccinated, but also stressed it must be down to the individual to make such a decision.

"There are enough experts who deal with it," Flick told a news conference on Wednesday.

"They have come to the conclusion that there is no compulsory vaccination. There are people in all areas who do not get vaccinated.

"We are in the public eye. We also have a great responsibility. But I've said everything about how I feel about it.

"I want the players to be vaccinated, but that's up to them. I hope that there will no longer be issues such as the five players we have to send home due to coronavirus, that is what I would like as a coach."

There has been a suggestion that players who are unvaccinated may not be able to compete at the 2022 World Cup.

"Qatar is still a long way off, we will see what comes next," he added.

"Our team doctor said enough yesterday. The fact is that we thought about it beforehand and tested ourselves. We feel it is our responsibility to ensure that we are all healthy.

"That something like this would happen to us was almost foreseeable. But we have no compulsory vaccination. I believe that people should not be judged who do not get vaccinated.

"For me the only way out of the pandemic is to get vaccinated – even in professional football. That is my opinion. But everyone has the right to refuse."

Flick also confirmed that Julian Draxler would miss Thursday's match against Liechtenstein with a muscle injury.

Hansi Flick hailed Germany's attitude and their perfect start to his tenure after they confirmed their 2022 World Cup spot with a 4-0 win over North Macedonia on Monday.

Kai Havertz broke the deadlock at the Tose Proeski Arena and Chelsea colleague Timo Werner netted a quickfire brace, with Jamal Musiala adding the fourth goal to become his country's second-youngest scorer in history (18y 227d).

Flick subsequently becomes just the second Germany head coach – along with predecessor Joachim Low – to win all of his opening five games, while Die Mannschaft have now qualified for every World Cup since 1954, with only Brazil achieving the same feat.

And the former Bayern Munich head coach, whose side have scored 18 and conceded just one since his appointment, was delighted with their performance in Skopje.

"We now have five wins from five this season," Flick told RTL post-match. "The result was perfect.

"We wanted to qualify as quickly as possible. You have to compliment the team on their attitude.

"Of course the first half was a bit wild, but we can be happy that we won and qualified. We were very consistent after the first goal, so we can be satisfied."

Werner attempted a game-high nine shots – two more than the entire North Macedonia team combined – and Flick also found time to praise the striker as he looks ahead to Qatar in 2022.

"We now have time to develop and improve until November 2022," he continued. "I'm looking forward to the task. Timo Werner's second goal was the best today.

"He didn't have it easy. He had a few chances in the game and scored two great goals."

The Chelsea forward, who has scored 21 times for his country, added that his relationship with Flick is vital for his performances.

"If the coach counts on you, it helps every player," Werner said. "I need this trust from outside. He gives me 100 per cent. I'll try to pay that back."

Timo Werner scored a double as Germany became the first team to qualify for the 2022 World Cup thanks to a 4-0 win over North Macedonia in Monday's Group J clash.

Hansi Flick's side – who have now won all five games under their new head coach – seized the early initiative at the Tose Proeski Arena, with Timo Werner denied by the woodwork as the visitors registered 15 first-half shots.

However, Kai Havertz broke the deadlock after 50 minutes before Werner added a quickfire double to put the game out of the hosts' reach.

Jamal Musiala then added a late fourth and, with Armenia dropping points against Romania, Germany claimed an unassailable eight-point lead at the summit to quality for Qatar 2022.

Havertz teed up both Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Muller in the opening stages but neither could beat Stole Dimitrievski with headers, before Darko Velkovski nodded wide at the other end.

Serge Gnabry then poked narrowly wide and Werner, who was earlier denied from point-blank range by Dimitrievski, struck the left-hand post as Germany failed to make their 76.5 per cent first-half possession pay.

Flick's team, however, opened the scoring after the interval as Muller raced onto Gnabry's throughball before squaring for Havertz to tap into an empty net.

Werner was unfortunate to not double the lead after a ricochet off the North Macedonia goalkeeper 10 minutes later, but the Chelsea forward made amends.

Muller collected his second assist as he slotted through for Werner, who rifled an unstoppable right-footed volley into the bottom-right corner before curling into the same corner three minutes later following Florian Wirtz's offload.

Gnabry should have added a fourth but he could only volley over from Muller's chipped pass, though Musiala latched onto fellow substitute Karim Adeyemi's ball to roll into the bottom-right corner and seal the victory.

Germany's midfield partnership of Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich is "one of the best duos in the world", according to Hansi Flick.

The Bayern Munich pair have started together in each of their country's last three matches and are likely to anchor the midfield in the World Cup Qualifying Group J clash against North Macedonia on Monday.

Goretzka and Kimmich have also partnered each other in all seven of Bayern's Bundesliga outings this season, helping Julian Nagelsmann's side to the top of the table in the process.

Ahead of Germany's trip to North Macedonia, where victory could see Die Mannschaft secure their place in Qatar with two matches to spare, Flick lauded Kimmich and Goretzka, who also formed a key part of his dominant Bayern team.

"Everyone knows they get along well off the pitch," he told a news conference. "They complement each other and are top professionals. 

"We need them to dictate our game. They harmonise well in midfield and we're glad we have them. 

"It's one of the best midfield duos in the world."

Manuel Neuer could return in goal for Germany, having missed Friday’s win over Romania with an adductor injury. Flick also revealed that defender Antonio Rudiger is a doubt after missing training on Sunday.

Meanwhile, winger Serge Gnabry has defended team-mate Timo Werner, who received criticism after a subdued performance against Romania.

Although involved in an early penalty incident, the Chelsea striker was substituted in the 67th minute having amassed just 24 touches and 19 passes – the lowest tallies recorded by any of Germany's starting outfield players – while also seeing both of his shots go off target.

Nevertheless, Gnabry was full of praise Werner's work rate and determination, insisting the former RB Leipzig star was simply unfortunate.

"We know there are periods when a striker doesn't always score," Gnabry said. "Then, there's criticism, but we stand behind Timo. 

"He did a good job in the last game; he missed a little bit of luck, but he's giving everything, and that's the most important thing.

"Timo is not [Robert] Lewandowski and not a classical striker, but he also has his qualities; he's quick and can also score goals."

Hansi Flick insists Germany deserved maximum points after coming from behind to beat Romania in World Cup qualifying Group J on Friday.

Thomas Muller's late strike earned a 2-1 victory for Flick's side in Hamburg, after Serge Gnabry cancelled out Ianis Hagi's first-half effort.

As a result, Die Mannschaft moved six points clear at the top of Group J with three matches remaining, and could seal their qualification by beating North Macedonia on Monday.

They also made it four wins from four under Flick, whose perfect start since replacing Joachim Low after Euro 2020 continues.

The former Bayern Munich boss was disappointed by the manner in which Germany conceded the opening goal – the first of his tenure – having seen the initial awarding of a penalty overturned by referee Cuneyt Cakir just 52 seconds earlier.

Nevertheless, he was pleased with the response of his players, while also paying tribute to the home support at the Volksparkstadion.

"Conceding goals always annoys me," Flick told RTL.

"We were about to have a penalty, and then we conceded. It wasn't easy for us to put up with that. 

"We were man to man at the back. A number six simply has to stay there to cover, but we also have to say it was a very good goal

"But the team gave everything and the fans pushed us. In the end, we deserved to win against a team that defended very deep."

Match-winner Muller added: "I thought we played a very committed game and tried a lot. Going into the break 1-0 behind was not a good feeling. 

"We have to compliment the fans. When we scored the second, they literally exploded. We could feel the connection on the pitch.

"Even when we fell behind, we knew that not everything we did before was bad. It's nice when you still get a result afterwards."

Germany captain Manuel Neuer says it was important for his side to "set an example again" after winning each of their first three games under new head coach Hansi Flick.

Die Mannschaft eased to a 4-0 win over Iceland in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier to open up a four-point lead at the top of Group J with four matches to play.

That routine victory in Reykjavik followed on from wins over Liechtenstein and Armenia over the past week, with Flick's side scoring 12 goals and conceding none across that spell.

Flick is only the second Germany boss to win his first three games without conceding after Joachim Low, the man he succeeded following his nation's Euro 2020 last-16 exit to England.

On the back of a morale-boosting week for Germany, Neuer believes a marker has now been laid down.

"It's important that we set an example again," he told RTL. "We were dominant and defended well, so of course we are extremely satisfied.

"After these three games we now want to work on our game and set a trend. You have seen across these matches that there is an upward trend. We want to continue like this.

"The teams we have played do not compete in knockout games at major tournament, but you have to set yourself goals as a team and as a professional.

"Of course we have a long way to go, but we have started to send out a positive message."

 

Serge Gnabry's tap-in and Antonio Rudiger's header had Germany two goals ahead inside 24 minutes and Leroy Sane killed off the contest early in the second half.

Timo Werner added a late fourth to make amends for a horror miss earlier in the game as Germany moved a giant step closer to sealing automatic qualification for Qatar 2022.

While happy with what he has seen during his first international window at the helm, former Bayern Munich coach Flick insists there is still more to come from his side.

"Nine points from these games was our goal and we succeeded," he told RTL. "The way we have played is a step forward, though not everything is at one hundred per cent.

"Still, you can't expect that. I am satisfied with what I have seen, but there are a few things we will try to do even better next time."

Rudiger's goal – a powerful header after being picked out by a Joshua Kimmich delivery – was his second for Germany on his 47th appearance.

Not only did Rudiger get on the scoresheet, he also gained possession a joint-high 10 times for his side, level with left-back Thilo Kehrer.

Reflecting on this week's triple-header, Rudiger said: "It was important we got nine points and improved our goal difference.

"Keeping out the opposition each time gives us confidence. But there should have been more goals today. Overall it has been a good week and a half for us."

Hansi Flick was delighted to see Germany show their "enormous quality" as they hammered Armenia 6-0, though Serge Gnabry felt the victory could have been more emphatic.

Germany moved to the top of World Cup qualifying Group J in style in Flick's first home game in charge on Sunday.

Gnabry scored twice in the first 15 minutes before goals from Marco Reus and Timo Werner put the game beyond all doubt by half-time.

Jonas Hofmann and debutant Karim Adeyemi rounded off a rout that thrilled head coach Flick, who was quick to urge his side to stay focused ahead of Wednesday's clash with Iceland.

"I liked this game but on Wednesday we still have a game in Iceland, so the team can be happy with their performance but we have to stay focused," Flick told RTL.

"We have seen that this team has an enormous quality, but what is important is to deliver when it counts."

Flick has won his first two games in charge of Germany, registering a plus-eight goal difference – the best start amongst all Germany coaches after their opening two fixtures.

In UEFA qualification for the 2022 World Cup, only Belgium (10) have scored more first-half goals than Germany (eight), with Gnabry's quick brace leaving Armenia with a mountain they never looked like climbing.

"Compared to the game in Liechtenstein we were more efficient, but we still missed a few chances, we could have scored more goals," said Gnabry. 

"Against Liechtenstein, we had taken three points, but today we are taking the extra euphoria to go to Iceland. 

"Obviously, having led quickly worked in our favour. My two goals are a good feeling when you score and you can help the team."

Hansi Flick knows Germany must play with more confidence in front of goal after a wasteful performance in what was still a comfortable victory over Liechtenstein.

Germany won 2-0 in Flick's first game as coach on Thursday but would have expected a greater cushion given their dominance.

Flick's team had 30 attempts in total and controlled 85.3 per cent of the possession, though only Timo Werner and Leroy Sane found a way through.

On Sunday, Group J leaders Armenia visit Stuttgart for Flick's first home game since he took over as Germany coach.

"We created three or four good chances at the start; however, we were lacking confidence in front of goal. We need to get that back," Flick said in a pre-match news conference on Saturday, reflecting on the trip to Liechtenstein.

"We coaches are of course not blind either, we are not there to talk things through nicely. In terms of the goalscoring against Liechtenstein, we cannot be satisfied with a result of 2-0.

"At the beginning of a path that you take as a coach with a team, other things are decisive. That was important to me.

"We've got some important games coming up, so it was good to get used to one another. As a result, the starting XI won't change much. Our main aim was nine points from these three matches, and it still is."

With Flick promising few changes, it should mean another start for Werner, who came through the ranks at Stuttgart before moving to RB Leipzig and then Chelsea.

"Sometimes you win a game like that one against Liechtenstein 8-0 because the first few chances go in," said Werner, who is relishing the opportunity to play in his home city.

"On other occasions, however, you only win 2-0. The time will come again where we score two goals from a half-chance.

"Us Swabians are known for being a bit critical, but we love our football. We need to show tomorrow that we're all good players. If we do that, the Stuttgart locals will go home happy."

Germany enjoyed a comfortable start to life under Hansi Flick as they ran out 2-0 winners over minnows Liechtenstein in World Cup qualifying Group J. 

Following a trophy laden 18-month stint at Bayern Munich, Flick replaced long-serving Germany coach Joachim Low after Euro 2020. 

Liechtenstein's goal lived a charmed life throughout on Thursday, with it taking until the 41st minute for Timo Werner to break the deadlock. 

The scoreline would have reflected Germany's dominance if not for Liechtenstein's goalkeeper Benjamin Buchel, yet Leroy Sane capped a fine individual display with a terrific strike to ensure there was no chance of a shock comeback. 

Two of Flick's former Bayern players combined in the fourth minute, Sane teeing up Joshua Kimmich, who saw his on-target strike blocked. 

Sane swiftly crafted another chance – Buchel making a fine stop to deny Werner – before Robin Gosens headed Kimmich's wonderful cross against the left-hand upright. 

Germany's opener finally came with their 12th attempt of a one-sided contest, Werner slotting home from Jamal Musiala's flick after a brilliant run from the Bayern youngster.  

Buchel somehow denied Germany a second before the hour, making a fantastic double save to keep out close-range efforts from both Gosens and Ilkay Gundogan. 

Gosens finally seemed set to get his goal with a blistering strike that was destined for the top corner, yet Daniel Kaufmann's brave block summed up a stoic defensive effort from Liechtenstein. 

Their resolve was finally punctured again in the 77th minute by Sane's brilliance, however, as the winger set himself up with some neat footwork before drilling a low finish across Buchel, emphatically making sure of the victory for new boss Flick. 

 

What does it mean? Easy does it for Hansi 

The short trip to Liechtenstein was never likely to present too many issues for Germany, though a stunning defeat would hardly have been the way Flick wished to start his reign. 

Germany, who are second in the group, barely got out of first gear, so there cannot be too many judgements made based on this display. Still, Flick will want his team to be more clinical in future. They ended the game with 85.3 per cent possession and had 30 attempts, albeit just seven were on target, so cannot truly be pleased with only the two goals. 

Buchel keeps things respectable  

With no points and 12 goals conceded from their first four games, there is no doubting Liechtenstein's place as the whipping boys in the group. 

Yet their goalkeeper can come out of this match with his head held high. Buchel made four saves, including a truly excellent stop from Gundogan in the 58th minute – a chance which registered an expected goals (xG) value of 0.51, making it the second-best opportunity of the match after Werner's opener. 

Sane returns to form in style 

It has been a difficult start to the season at Bayern for Sane, who was substituted off at half-time in Julian Nagelsmann's first competitive home game in charge last month. 

However, playing in his preferred position on the left, the former Manchester City winger had plenty of joy on duty for his country. He created a game-leading four chances, all of which were missed by his team-mates, before slamming in a deserved goal for himself. 

What's next? 

Germany host Group J leaders Armenia in Flick's first home game at the helm, while Liechtenstein face Romania, with both matches taking place on Sunday. 

Germany enjoyed a comfortable start to life under Hansi Flick as they ran out 2-0 winners over minnows Liechtenstein in World Cup qualifying Group J. 

Following a trophy laden 18-month stint at Bayern Munich, Flick replaced long-serving Germany coach Joachim Low after Euro 2020. 

Liechtenstein's goal lived a charmed life throughout on Thursday, with it taking until the 41st minute for Timo Werner to break the deadlock. 

The scoreline would have reflected Germany's dominance if not for Liechtenstein's goalkeeper Benjamin Buchel, yet Leroy Sane capped a fine individual display with a terrific strike to ensure there was no chance of a shock comeback. 

Two of Flick's former Bayern players combined in the fourth minute, Sane teeing up Joshua Kimmich, who saw his on-target strike blocked. 

Sane swiftly crafted another chance – Buchel making a fine stop to deny Werner – before Robin Gosens headed Kimmich's wonderful cross against the left-hand upright. 

Germany's opener finally came with their 12th attempt of a one-sided contest, Werner slotting home from Jamal Musiala's flick after a brilliant run from the Bayern youngster.  

Buchel somehow denied Germany a second before the hour, making a fantastic double save to keep out close-range efforts from both Gosens and Ilkay Gundogan. 

Gosens finally seemed set to get his goal with a blistering strike that was destined for the top corner, yet Daniel Kaufmann's brave block summed up a stoic defensive effort from Liechtenstein. 

Their resolve was finally punctured again in the 77th minute by Sane's brilliance, however, as the winger set himself up with some neat footwork before drilling a low finish across Buchel, emphatically making sure of the victory for new boss Flick. 

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