Joachim Low wants Germany to clinch a place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ as early as possible in order to give him youngsters some qualifying experience. Die Mannschaft have won all four of their preliminaries, scoring 16 goals and conceding zero. They sit top of Group C, five points clear of nearest challengers Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan.

Low included eight players aged 21 or under in his latest squad: Julian Brandt, who was forced to pull out, Yannick Gerhardt, Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, Benjamin Henrichs, Joshua Kimmich, Max Meyer, Jonathan Tah and Julian Weigl. Another, Leroy Sane, was unavailable due to injury.

“I want to get the youngsters playing to a world-class level,” Low told ARD. “I want to get them playing in these qualifiers.”

Four consecutive clean sheets helped Germany reach the UEFA EURO quarter-finals, where they eliminated Italy 6-5 on penalties. However, a double from France’s Antoine Griezmann came to their undoing in the semis.

“We didn’t achieve our goal of becoming European champions, but we showed we are a good team with a good team spirit,” said the 56-year-old former playmaker. “Overall I was satisfied with 2016.”

Germany are the fourth holders having to win their place at the next World Cup. Brazil pipped Argentina on goal difference – with a little help from a delightful Alvaro Recoba flick – to finish top of South American qualifying for Germany 2006. Italy comfortably won Group 8 in the European preliminaries for South Africa 2010, and Spain beat France to Group I’s ticket to Brazil 2014, a Pedro goal at the Stade de France proving decisive.