ESPN FC: Germany clinch World Cup place
Germany coach Joachim Loew believes his team have become "more solid" and "more stable" after they secured their place in the 2014 World Cup finals with a comfortable 3-0 win over the Republic of Ireland in Cologne.
The home side dominated possession and may have won by more were it not for an inspired performance by Ireland keeper David Forde, prompting Loew to predict his side are maturing into a real force ahead of next summer's tournament in Brazil.
"I used this campaign to make my team more stable," stated Loew, after goals from Sami Khedira, Andre Schurrle and Mesut Ozil saw off a spirited Ireland outfit. "It hinges around the opponent you play, they will have a major role in making games attractive or nice to watch for the spectators, but I feel we have made progress and this team is more solid and stable than it was in the Euro 2012 finals.
"Of course we do have some things to tackle. Defensively, there is room for improvement, but this is all trying to reach perfection. We came close to perfection in our games against Austria in this qualifying group and that is encouraging."
Loew reflected on the criticism he received after his side surrendered a four-goal lead at home to Sweden earlier in the campaign, but he was all smiles with the media who were quick to latch onto his side's early wobble.
"When it finishes 4-4 after you are 4-0 up at home, you will not be the media darling for that weekend," he added ahead of the rematch with Sweden on Tuesday night. "We had to take the flak for conceding four in a row and there's no need to remind the team. We have played to our potential in the last two games and we have one more left. We have a score to settle with the Swedes, but all in the best professional manner."
Meanwhile, Republic of Ireland caretaker boss Noel King dismissed criticism of his selection tactics after he included Stephen Kelly in defence and started Anthony Stokes as a replacement for the injured Robbie Keane.
"Real football people know what went on tonight," he stated. "We had chances to go 2-1 and despite not having the lion's share of possession, to come away from the best team in the world in this environment and create five or six chances, that was a testament to their passion and courage.
"Against a top team in the world, we created chances. I'm delighted with our boys. I'm just sorry we didn't score. I thought we deserved a goal."
King also defended his decision to pick Stokes ahead of Premier League star Shane Long, after the Celtic man missed a couple of clear-cut chances to score.
"He gave the ball away for the first goal, but he worked his socks off. He was very creative and on another day, he could have got a hat trick," added King. "That’s the life of a striker. If they score, they are a hero; if they don’t, they are mugs."
Keane is expected to be fit for Tuesday night's qualifier against Kazakhstan in Dublin, when King is likely to take charge of the Ireland team for a final time.