Germany's odds of becoming the first repeat World Cup champion since Brazil in 1958/62 are looking better thanks to wave of promising young talent -- the most intriguing of which is 21-year-old Timo Werner -- a goalscorer.
The Germans, who last summer won the Confederations Cup with the youngest squad in the tournament, are perfect in qualifying with eight wins in eight games, outscoring its foes, 35-2.
In Germany’s latest Group C victory, Werner scored twice in a 6-0 rout that marked Norway’s worst loss in 45 years.
Werner won the Golden Boot at the Confederations Cup with three goals, the same tally as teammates Leon Goretzka, a 22-year-old midfielder, and 28-year-old forward Lars Stindle, but Werner took the prize thanks to also assisting twice, including the setup of Stindle’s goal in the 1-0 final win over Chile. (Julian Draxler, 23, won the MVP Golden Ball.)
Werner’s national team stats since debuting last March: 8 games (549 minutes), 6 goals, 2 assists.
“He’s a phenomenal weapon,” says Germany veteran midfielder Sami Khedira.
The emergence of a lethal scorer for Die Mannschaft is especially important in the wake of the post-2014 World Cup retirement of forward Miroslav Klose, Germany’s all-time leading scorer with 71 goals and the all-time World Cup leading scorer (16 goals).
For the 2016 European Championship, at which Germany exited in the semifinals, Coach Joachim Loew called back Mario Gomez, then 31, who hadn’t played a competitive game for Germany since the 2012 Euro.
Gomez replaced Werner in the 66th minute of the win over Norway and scored the final goal.
“I don’t even want to compare myself to him [Werner],” said Gomez. “I told the coach, I’m here if he needs me and I’m OK with the roll of backup. If Werner shoots us to the World Cup title, I’m happy with that.
“He will dominate the German frontline for the next 10 years. We need someone with his form at the World Cup.”
Werner joined VfB Stuttgart at age 6 and at age 17 and 148 days became the youngest player to debut for its first team. Before his 19th birthday, he became the youngest player to appear in 50 Bundesliga games and is now the youngest player to appear in 100 Bundesliga games.
After VfB Stuttgart was relegated to the second division for the 2016-17 season, Werner moved to RB Leipzig and helped the newly promoted club finish Bundesliga runner-up with 21 goals and seven assists. He was the highest scoring German in the Bundesliga last season and this season has two goals in RB Leipzig’s first two games.
“He does that which really hurts the defense because he has this relentless drive to the goal, and he has the speed,” said Loew, who calls Werner a “rocket.”
At age 17, Werner ran 100 meters at 11.1 seconds.
“My father put a lot of worth on length strength for acceleration,” Werner said. “I don’t like weight rooms so much. I preferred running up vineyard hills or trails at the Max-Eyth sea.”
Germany has already clinched at least a playoff berth for World Cup qualification but has a five-point lead over Group C second-place Northern Ireland and is most likely to clinch an outright berth in October. It needs just one point from two games against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan.
“He is an outstanding striker,” says veteran German defender Mats Hummels. “And that’s an understatement. He is a damn good and in the long term we could have a very, very strong center forward.”