Germany cruise past Iceland after DIY 'Human Rights' protest
Germany's midfielder Leon Goretzka kicks the first goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification football match Germany v Iceland in Duisburg, western Germany on March 25, 2021. AFP
Germany cruised to a 3-0 win over Iceland on Thursday to get their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign off to a winning start after their players staged a pre-match, DIY demonstration for human rights.
The Germans lined up before kick-off wearing black T-shirts with white hand-painted lettering that spelled out "HUMAN RIGHTS".
"It was a sign that we stand up for all human rights in the world, no matter where, and for the values we represent," said Germany's head coach Joachim Loew, who "absolutely" supported his team's gesture.
"That was a good and important sign."
The protest came a day after Norway's players took to the field in Gibraltar in shirts bearing the message "Human rights, on and off the pitch" to highlight conditions faced by migrant workers building the stadiums in Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host nation.
British newspaper The Guardian recently claimed that more than 6,500 workers have died in Qatar since the World Cup was awarded to the Gulf state in 2010.
Qatar disputes this figure. In a statement on Friday, it said only 20 percent of the 1.4 million nationals from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan that live in Qatar are employed as construction workers and added: "Most of these people do not work on projects related to the World Cup."
Germany player Leon Goretzka, who scored the opening goal on Thursday, said: "We have the World Cup coming up and there will be discussions about it.... we wanted to show we are not ignoring that.
"We wrote the letters ourselves. We have a large reach - and we can use it to set an example for the values we want to stand for. That was clear."
Once on the pitch in Duisburg, Loew's side raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening seven minutes through Goretzka and Kai Havertz. It was the first time in 52 years that Germany have led so early in a men's international.
It was the perfect reaction after Loew had demanded a strong display following their humiliating 6-0 thrashing by Spain last November.
"The early goals played into our hands and were good for our game," said Goretzka. "We brought the passion onto the pitch to play for our country," he added, after the team was sharply criticised by German fans in the wake of the Spanish debacle.
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who has scored 16 goals in 34 games for Manchester City this season, carried his scoring streak to national duty to net Germany's second-half goal. "We moved the ball well, created chances. We have a certain responsibility because we have the quality," added Gundogan.
Hofmann tests positive
Germany had a scare before kick-off when midfielder Jonas Hofmann tested positive for Covid-19, but the game was allowed to go ahead after consultation with local authorities.
Loew admitted the mood behind the scenes was "hectic after the news. That threw the whole daily schedule into disarray". "Every meeting was cancelled," he added. "All the players stayed in their rooms. It was only when all the tests were through that we were reassured," he added after the rest of the squad returned negative tests for the virus.
The hosts got the dream start when Joshua Kimmich and Serge Gnabry combined before their Bayern Munich team-mate Goretzka fired in the opening goal after 120 seconds.
Leroy Sane then laid the ball back for Chelsea star Havertz to fire past Iceland defenders to give the Germans an early 2-0 cushion. The relief was obvious on the German bench as Loew, who will stand down after the Euro 2020 finals this summer, applauded his team. "We made a dynamic start, we had the right attitude and the victory was commanding," said Loew. "But I see room for improvement in our game."
Iceland were starved of possession but their best chance fell to midfielder Runar Sigurjonsson, who fired the wrong side of the post on 27 minutes. Gundogan grabbed the third goal in the middle of Iceland's brightest spell when he combined with Serge Gnabry to fire home on 56 minutes.
Bayern Munich's 18-year-old midfielder Jamal Musiala came on to make his Germany debut for the final 12 minutes despite playing twice for England Under-21 last November. Musiala, who has dual nationality, opted to play senior football for Germany and world football's governing body FIFA sanctioned his switch.
"That was a big moment for me and my family, it's something you dream about since you were a child," said Musiala.