Kazakhstan vs. Germany: Complete Preview for World Cup Qualifier

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2013

European World Cup qualifiers resume this week, and Germany and Kazakhstan play a double header on Friday and Tuesday in Group C. The first match will be played at the Astana Arena in Astana, Kazakhstan, with kickoff scheduled for Saturday at midnight local time (Friday at 1 p.m. EST).

Germany will look to rebound from their shock draw with Sweden in October. The DFB team were ahead by 4-0 in that match before the Swedes roared back to equalize and earn a point in the closing minutes.

Kazakhstan, meanwhile, will aim to add to the point they earned at home against Austria in October. Miroslav Beranek's side have scored just once in the tournament and face a mountain to climb in a strong group, but theywill at least want to put on a good performance in front of their home supporters.

Joachim Low will have a somewhat depleted squad at his disposal as injuries and illness have caused several stars to drop out of contention. Holger Badstuber is out until next season as he recovers from ACL reconstruction surgery, and Mats Hummels still has several weeks before he's expected make his return following an ankle injury.

In midfield, Toni Kroos has withdrawn from Low's squad due to a knee knock, and Lars (heel) and Sven (illness) Bender are also out of contention. Winger Marco Reus will also miss out on the match due to suspension.

Due to Miroslav Klose's knee injury, Low has only one natural striker in his squad: Mario Gomez. The 27-year-old has been given minimal playing time at Bayern as of late, and Low recently hinted that he may experiment with a strikerless formation. Whether that will be from the start or with Gomez beginning the match as a target man remains to be seen.

Kazakhstan have a long way to go if they are ever to qualify for a major tournament, but have improved in recent years and are now 139th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings. They held Austria to a draw in Astana, and if Germany are not careful, they could suffer the same fate.

It would be a long shot, but as the great Sepp Herberger once said, people watch football matches "because they don't know how it ends."

Be sure to check in with Bleacher Report for more on Kazakhstan vs. Germany before, during, and after the match.