McGhee was in Hamburg this week to watch Germany and Poland, two of Scotland's Group D opponents, play out a goalless draw in a friendly.
Scotland start their qualifying campaign with a dauntingly difficult trip to Dortmund and Gordon Strachan's side are sure to be written off, but McGhee insists they will not go out with the sole intention of protecting their goal, a tactic that infamously backfired for Craig Levein's Scotland side in Prague in 2010.
"Of course the Germans will be a real challenge to us," said McGhee. "But if we just keep taking punches against any team, Germany or Poland or anyone away from home, then eventually you'll take a knockout punch. You've got to be able to punch back.
"So even in Dortmund, we're going to have them set up in such a way that we'll be tight, we'll have to work hard and concentrate, but we've got to give ourselves a chance of punching back.
"We've got to set ourselves in a shape that allows that. The shape that we've worked on for our last few games does give you that - there's somebody close to our centre-forward so he's not isolated. One thing we can't do in Dortmund is to leave one striker up there to battle away on his own because he'll just get absolutely nowhere against the quality of the players they've got."
McGhee watched a young experimental German side fail to find a way past the more experienced Poles. Although both sides were missing key players, McGhee is confident it was a worthy reconnaissance trip.
He said: "The two line-ups were short of a lot of their main players, so you have to take that into consideration. But there was a lot of players there who we have had a close look at and I'll take that back. If any of the two groups of players pop up when we go to play them, then we will have had a look at them recently.
"What interested me was in the last piece of the game, you got a flavour of the Polish manager. I was watching him closely and he was really encouraging them to push on and I suspect that when we go to play Poland, that's what they will be like. They finished in a 4-3-3 and were attacking strongly.
"We'll watch Germany closely during the World Cup, but the main reason I was in Hamburg was to look at Poland. When we come to play them, they will be in our faces, they will be trying to come on to and step all over us. The one thing about Germany, no matter who plays, is that they all try to play the same way. They pass, play aggressive football, they are all fit, they cover really quickly. I don't think it matters who plays against us."