Germany made light work of their start to the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign after goals from Leon Goretzka, Kai Havertz and Ilkay Gundogan gave them a 3-0 home win over Iceland in a lopsided Group J clash on Thursday.
Goretzka and Havertz fired the Germans into a 2-0 lead inside the opening seven minutes before Gundogan sealed victory with a sizzling low shot from 25 metres in the 56th.
The match went ahead after two German players, Jonas Hofmann and Marcel Halstenberg, were quarantined earlier on Thursday as Hofmann tested positive for COVID-19 and Halstenberg was identified as a category one contact.
Germany took the lead after a delightful move as Joshua Kimmich found Serge Gnabry in the penalty area with a perfectly weighed pass and the latter touched it back for Goretzka to volley home in the third minute.
Havertz made it 2-0 after another defence-splitting pass from Kimmich released Leroy Sane who squared it back for the Chelsea forward to curl in a low first-time shot from 12 metres.
The home side took their feet off the pedal after Gundogan’s strike but could have added the fourth as Gnabry hit the post with a rasping shot in the 70th minute.
Germany coach Joachim Low, who is stepping down after this year’s European Championship, was pleased with his team’s start.
“It wasn’t our most incredible performance, but it was very important to make a positive start to the new year and that’s what we’ve done tonight,” he said.
“We knew they’d sit deep and we knew we were going to have to force them to move in order to create space. I think we did that really well for at least 60 minutes.”
Gundogan was pleased with Germany’s performance after their disappointing Nations League campaign last year which ended in a group stage exit after a 6-0 drubbing by Spain.
“We produced a strong performance and kept things under control,” said the Manchester City playmaker. “We were just pleased to be playing together again and I think you saw we enjoyed it tonight.
“We don’t always have a lot of time to work on things. We have to rely upon our own performances to deliver.”
Prior to kickoff, Germany’s players lined up wearing shirts displaying the message “HUMAN RIGHTS” with Goretzka elaborating on the intent afterward.
“We have the World Cup coming up and there will be discussions about it. We wanted to show we are not ignoring that,” he told RTL television. “We wrote the letters ourselves. We have a large reach and we can use it to set an example for the values we want to stand for. That was clear.”
The protest came after Norway staged similar action on Wednesday ahead of their 3-0 win at Gibraltar in Group G, when their players donned T-shirts with the message “Human rights, on and off the pitch”.
Although players have been punished by FIFA and other football governing bodies in the past for making political statements, no action will follow from the protest.
“FIFA believes in the freedom of speech, and in the power of football as a force for good,” FIFA said in a statement.
Germany visit Romania in their next match on Sunday while Iceland are away to Armenia.