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Germans down Kazakhs

Schweinsteiger and Müller on target in Astana

Germany took another giant stride towards the 2014 World Cup in Brazil on Friday evening with a comfortable 3-0 qualifying win away to Kazakhstan, sending Joachim Löw’s side clear at the top of Group C on 13 points from five matches, ahead of Sweden (8), who were held to a goalless draw at home by Ireland (7).

A 25,000 crowd in Astana saw Bastian Schweinsteiger (20) and Mario Götze (22) tilt the balance decisively in the visitors’ favour with a double strike midway through the first half. Löw started with FCB foursome Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller, the latter wrapping up the win with the third goal a quarter of an hour from time.

Mario Gomez was a late withdrawal from the matchday squad with a hamstring problem but should be fit for the return on Tuesday evening when the Kazakhs visit Nuremberg, a game Schweinsteiger misses after collecting a second yellow card of the qualifying competition on Friday evening. Jérôme Boateng remained on the bench in Astana.

Late, late kick-off

“We have the three points and that’s it basically. We played very well in the first half but there were moments of carelessness in the second, and we’ll certainly be talking about those. But otherwise we can set off for home happy after a job well done,” said Müller following the victory over the team ranked 139th in the world.

Unusual features of Friday night’s game included the artificial turf pitch, the kick-off at midnight local time – the German party stuck rigidly to Central European Time during their trip to avoid jet lag - and the fact that Löw’s side lined up without a recognised striker. Schweinsteiger orchestrated an accomplished first-half display marked by accurate passing and ease on the ball from the men in white.

The opening goal on 20 minutes, scored by Schweinsteiger himself after good build-up play between Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil, was the midfielder’s first for his country since October 2011, with Müller applying the faintest of touches to his club-mate’s shot. “Thomas gave it the touch that helped it in. Thomas is always somewhere near the ball,” Schweinsteiger grinned afterwards.

Over by half time

Less than 120 seconds later, Dortmund’s Götze doubled the advantage and banished any lingering doubts as to the outcome. “It was basically over by half-time, so we dropped the pace in the second half and weren’t as determined. But I think it’s a deserved win,” coach Löw observed

With the Germans’ attention wandering slightly after the break, there was a flurry of action around Neuer’s goal, sub Ulan Konysbajev hitting the bar on 69 minutes, and the FCB keeper saving an angled drive from Greuther Fürth’s Heinrich Schmidtgal.

The visitors reasserted themselves as time went on, but sub Lukas Podolski (60) and Götze (66) missed promising opportunities. Müller went one better 15 minutes from the end as he rounded off the scoring and sealed the three qualifying points.