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Throwing a spanner in the works of flawless German engineering

IT is probably easier to locate a taxi on Sauchiehall Street at chucking-out time on a Saturday night than it is to find any flaws within the current Germany squad.

The German squad contains 18 world champions but manager Joachim Loew has warned all of his players that Scotland will not be defeated easily in Dortmund on Sunday. Picture: EPA
The German squad contains 18 world champions but manager Joachim Loew has warned all of his players that Scotland will not be defeated easily in Dortmund on Sunday. Picture: EPA

Such is the strength and depth of Joachim Loew's group - the reigning world champions, lest anyone has forgotten - that any mention of a perceived weakness is countered almost immediately by a list of their strengths as long as the aforementioned taxi queues on Glasgow's busiest thoroughfare.

Forget last night's 4-2 defeat suffered by a fringe Germany against an Argentina side nursing a grievance having lost the World Cup final in July - friendlies involving shadow XI's against near full-strength opponents count for little. Since the finals in Brazil, Germany have lost Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose, who all elected to bow out from international football at the top. That loss, however, has been offset by the recall of Marco Reus, absent from Brazil due to injury, and Mario Gomez, who was not deemed fit enough to make the journey.

They are joined in the most recent squad by 18 World Cup winners, their medals still gleaming from that glorious night in the Maracana just six weeks ago. New captain Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira miss out through injury - a loss, undoubtedly - but that defensive midfield void can be filled by Toni Kroos, now of Real Madrid, and Christoph Kramer, the unfortunate figure helped off in the World Cup final after suffering concussion.

The rest of the big names - Thomas Mueller, Mario Goetze, Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Andre Schuerrle, Lukas Podolski - are all there. Next in the path of this juggernaut is Scotland. In what will be Germany's first competitive match since the World Cup, Gordon Strachan and his players will enter the intimidating cauldron that is Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park (the Westfalenstadion in old money) on Sunday and try to knock this runaway train off the track.

If there is an advantage in playing Germany away from home in the first qualifying tie for a European Championships, it probably lies in the hope that a sense of complacency creeps into their play. Beyond that, however, it may be a case of Scotland keeping all their fingers and toes crossed and hoping for a miracle.

"I don't like the strip," was the deadpan analysis of Alan McInally, the former Bayern Munich forward and Sky Sports pundit, on the question of any German weaknesses. "They have the best goalkeeper-stroke-defender [Neuer] as that's what he thinks he is. He never stays on his goal line unless it's a corner or something when he just comes out and catches the ball anyway. The likes of Mats Hummels, Benedikt Howedes and Kevin Grosskreutz are all top class, then you have Thomas Mueller and the wee magician Mario Goetze.

"There aren't many weaknesses in the German side. We can only hope that they think as world champions they only need to give 75% as that would be fantastic for us. They are incredibly talented but my cup is half-full rather than half-empty."

Loew has shown himself to be as shrewd a diplomat as he is head coach, expressing the opinion that Scotland's "commitment and running" could bring about Germany's downfall. "They are difficult opponents for us," he said, maintaining a straight face. "We've gone from being hunter to potential prey."

If Scotland shooting down the Germans in their own backyard seems somewhat unlikely, then McInally believes there is certainly greater cause for optimism. Strachan's side go into Sunday's match without a loss in six matches stretching back to last September, and confident of ending an 18-year absence from major tournaments. McInally takes Loew's praise with a pinch of salt but can see where the German is coming from.

"The fact that we can maybe cause the world champions problems is fantastic," he added. "I think Loew's aware of the job that Gordon Strachan has done. A few years ago nobody would even have given us a hope in hell of even getting five corners in the match but what Gordon and Mark McGhee have done is get us back up to what we expect of Scotland. There's better organisation and certainly better confidence within the squad.

"I'm happy we're playing them in the first game and we can hopefully put a marker down to the other teams in the group. We haven't played at a [major finals] for ages and it would be good if our boys can get it together."

Sky Sports will show an unrivalled schedule of football with Euro 2016 qualifiers, Champions League, La Liga and Eredivisie on Sky Sports 5, your new home of European football

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