PARIS (AFP) – Northern Ireland and Iceland have punched above their weight so far and will be out to land further blows in Euro 2016 qualifying this weekend while world champions Germany seek a morale-boosting win over the amateurs from Gibraltar.
Elsewhere, England skipper Wayne Rooney earns his 100th cap against Slovenia, Scotland clash with the Republic of Ireland, and reigning European champions Spain host Belarus.
A shock 1-1 draw with the Republic in Germany last month left Joachim Loew’s men, already seen off by Poland, playing catch in fourth in Group D, three points shy of the Poles and the Irish.
Minnows Gibraltar, who have leaked 17 goals to none scored, should represent easy pickings for the continental superpower.
Gibraltar, who only played their first international in September, have modest ambitions from the game in Nuremberg, as their goalkeeper, Jordan Perez explained.
A fireman by profession Perez told Sportbild magazine: “Anything below seven goals and I’ll be satisfied as then we can say that we’re better than Brazil (routed 7-1 by Germany at the World Cup).”
Germany were stung by Sunderland defender John O’Shea’s 94th minute equaliser for Ireland.
And on Friday the 34-year-old veteran comes up against his Premier League club teammate, Scotland striker Steven Fletcher.
“I am looking forward to it, to be fair. I have been running rings around him in training, so if I could do it in the game, it would be fine,” Fletcher said.
Iceland stunned heavyweights Holland 2-0 last time out to maintain their unlikely perfect run in Group A. The tiny Nordic nation of 325,000 inhabitants take on the Czech Republic, who similarly have not missed a beat in the three qualifiers so far.
The under-performing Dutch’s third-place finish at the World Cup is now a long distant memory, with new coach Guus Hiddink under fire at home.
Anything short of outright victory against Latvia in Amsterdam will only further weaken his position.
Like Iceland, the Czechs also saw off the Netherlands, and they are under no illusions as to what lies ahead when the Icelanders come calling on Sunday.
“They are well organised, committed, tough and their biggest weapon is the teamwork, they work hard for the team not only in defence but also in the attack,” said the Czech Republic’s Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.