Goals from Sebastian Rudy, Sandro Wagner, and Joshua Kimmich were enough to give Germany a 3-1 victory over Northern Ireland and clinch direct qualification into next summer's World Cup in Russia. A win for Die Mannschaft on Oct. 8 against Norway would see them finish the qualifying campaign with a perfect record, but Joachim Low is likely to experiment with the squad a bit for that final qualifier and give some of his first-choice players a rest.
Bayern Munich were represented in the starting XI by the quintet comprised of Thomas Muller, Joshua Kimmich, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, and Sebastian Rudy. Niklas Sule was a unused substitute on the bench.
Rudy's opening goal in the 2nd minute is worthy of as many second looks as it's likely to get on social media — it really was THAT good. Rudy's no stranger to attempting difficult volley's with Bayern, but his finish at Windsor Park was nothing short of spectacular — and it was technically assisted by Kimmich! Have a look (if you haven't already, that is):
What a goal!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 5, 2017
Sebastian Rudy scores a SCREAMER to put Germany up 1-0! https://t.co/XID54Ls4Nm
The Rudy - Toni Kroos partnership in midfield
Though Rudy might not be a first-choice center midfielder for Low come next summer, his partnership in midfield with Toni Kroos worked wonders against Northern Ireland. The dual pivot between the two gave license for either to roam forward at times while the other would stay further back and cover — case in point, Rudy was in an advanced position when he scored in the 2nd minute. Likewise, Kroos got forward often enough to generate a few shots himself. Between the two of them, neither seemed to put a foot wrong in terms of their distribution and Kroos was once again a metronome for Germany's play in the center of the pitch — a constant link between defense and attack. Rudy has proven himself to be an effective partner alongside Kroos and Low will surely have been taking note of that at Windsor Park.
The Kroos - Rudy pivot gave Muller some freedom
With Kroos and Rudy in the center of midfield, it looked as if Muller was given more freedom to interchange his positioning in between the center midfield pairing and Sandro Wagner. Although he did make a few stray passes in either half, he was constantly swapping flanks and made it difficult for Northern Ireland to keep a beat on him. As he often does for Bayern, his movements off the ball also created a lot of spaces for his teammates to run in to. It was also refreshing to see him not shy away from any challenges and put his body on the line; something he always does for club and country.
Hummels - Boateng partnership looked strong
Especially considering this was Boateng's first involvement with the German national team since Euro 2016, his partnership with Hummels in the center Germany's defense looked solid against Norther Ireland. Aside from a few nervy moments at the back with Marc-Andre ter Stegen towards the end of the match, Hummels and Boateng hardly let Northern Ireland get close enough to generate chances on target. The two looked more than comfortable with their distribution out of the back and were both dominant with their aerial duels.
Joshua Kimmich: Mr. Consistency & the assist king!
Hats off to this youngster! An assist and a goal against Northern Ireland was perhaps a justifiable reward for how consistent he's been for Germany in World Cup qualifying. He could’ve had two assists, but Wagner's header midway through the first half off of Kimmich's cross struck the left post, much to Wagner's bemusement. As he's so often done for both Bayern and Germany, Kimmich was constantly up and down the right flank, and was able to get a lot of delivery in towards the direction of both Muller and Sandro Wagner. Kimmich's record of consecutive minutes played has now stretched to Germany's last 22 matches and he's now provided the most assists of any other player in European World Cup qualifying (8). His contributions for Germany can simply not be understated:
Joshua Kimmich has now played every single minute of Germany’s last 22 games; the third longest streak in the nation’s history. pic.twitter.com/4gbQ9YaF6O— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 5, 2017
Bonus: Robert Lewandowski hat-trick for Poland!
Elsewhere in World Cup qualifying, Robert Lewandowski bagged a hat trick for Poland in their 6-1 thrashing of Armenia. The win, combined with Montenegro's 1-0 loss to Denmark later on in the match day, means that Poland could clinch direct qualification to next summer's finals with just a point against Montenegro on Oct. 8. Lewandowski's hat trick made him Poland's all-time leading goal scorer with 50 goals and he's also become the first player in history to score 15 goals in European World Cup qualifying, though Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo could well match that record with two qualifiers remaining. Regardless, hats off and congratulations to Lewandowski!