FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Germany coach Joachim Loew says he is firmly counting on six points from the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan despite missing several regulars.
Germany plays in Astana on March 22 and then in Nuremberg four days later against its Group C opponent. Germany leads the group with 10 points from four games. Kazakhstan has one point. "The expectations are that we win both games. We are the favorites and we accept this role," Loew said Thursday. "Kazakhstan has improved over the past two years, they are not so naive in the defense any longer. I expect them to be physical and compact in the defense. But I have already written in the six points from these games."
Loew's team is missing attacking midfielder Marco Reus, who is suspended for the first game; central defenders Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber, both injured, and striker Miroslav Klose, also injured. Winger Lucas Podolski was included, although he missed Arsenal's futile 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday.
The only striker in the squad is Mario Gomez, who has been coming off the bench for Bayern Munich. Loew said he is happy with his squad and didn't need replacements for Hummels and Klose. Germany blew a 4-0 lead over Sweden in its last qualifier to draw 4-4 at home, then beat France 2-1 in a friendly in Paris last month. Loew's team is No. 2 in FIFA's rankings.
Goalkeepers: Rene Adler (Hamburger SV), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover).
Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich) , Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Benedikt Hoewedes (Schalke), Marcel Schmelzer (Borussia Dortmund), Per Mertesacker (Arsenal), Heiko Westermann (Hamburger SV).
Midfielders: Lars Bender (Bayer Leverkusen), Andre Schuerrle (Bayer Leverkusen), Julian Draxler (Schalke), Sven Bender (Borussia Dortmund), Mario Goetze (Borussia Dortmund), Ilkay Guendogan (Borussia Dortmund, Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), Mesut Oezil (Real Madrid), Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (Arsenal).
Striker: Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich).